In most 6-1 hockey games, the winning team’s goalie would be an afterthought. But for half of their win Friday over the Detroit Red Wings, the Flyers didn’t play like a team that was going to win handily. It was their young goalie, Carter Hart, who allowed for a rally.
Alain Vigneault knows as much.
“Very rarely do you in a 6-1 game get your goaltender to be one of the stars, but that’s how good Carter was at the beginning,” the Flyers coach said after the game. “He gave us a chance to find our way in this game.”
Hart made 32 saves and buoyed the team during the lousy first two periods before it went on a scoring spree.
With the win, the Flyers improved their home record to 8-1-4 this season. The 21-year-old rising star was in goal for six of those Well Fargo Center victories.
Hart said he approaches each game the same way. But the hometown fans, a group that’s passionate despite not selling out the place, give him a little extra motivation.
“It’s obviously nice to play at home, with the fans behind you,” Hart said. “They were really into it tonight. But I don’t know, you’ve got to prepare no matter where you’re at, whether you’re at home or on the road.”
On Friday, the preparation was focused on a Detroit team that entered the game on a seven-game losing streak and not having scored a goal in a week. The Red Wings’ struggles didn’t make Hart complacent, he said. Instead, it made him mentally ready for an early test.
“They came out hard,” Hart said. “We kind of knew that they were going to come out desperate.”
His teammates recognized the importance of Hart’s resilience in the net, and said it helped make up for their sloppiness in a game they acknowledged felt much closer than the final score indicated.
“He was huge,” said captain Claude Giroux. “He made the saves we needed.”
“He was really big for us,” said center Scott Laughton, who scored the first goal of the game, less than a week after returning to the lineup after a broken right index finger sidelined him for 13 games. “He kept us in it and allowed us to generate offense.”
Midway through the first period, during Detroit’s first power play, Hart dove onto a puck and prevented Detroit, one of the league’s worst teams, from capitalizing on the man-up opportunity. In the first and second periods, he made 12 and 14 saves, respectively.
As they fly to Montreal for a game Saturday, Vigneault said, the home win would prove to be a good measuring stick for evaluating both individual players and the team as a whole. While the group has areas to improve on, the initial evaluation of Hart was less nuanced.
Vigneault put it simply: “We know Carter kept us in."