Sooner or later, Flyers goaltender Carter Hart is going to have to find a way to get his road game in order.
The current trip would be a good place to start.
You know Hart’s story this season: He has been almost unbeatable at home, awful on the road. He is looking for his first road win since Nov. 10 — a 3-2 shootout victory in Boston — and he figures to get an opportunity either Thursday against the host Panthers in South Florida, or Saturday in Tampa.
I talked to Hart’s longtime sports psychologist, John Stevenson, to get some insight into how the 21-year-old goaltender is viewing his road struggles.
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Stevenson has been Hart’s sports psychologist for about 10 years, and he said the goalie’s road struggles have not gotten into his head.
“It’s just one of those weird anomalies; that’s the only way I can explain it, and I think it will all work out.” Stevenson said in a phone conversation from Edmonton on Tuesday night.
Last season, Hart was better on the road than home. This season, he is 14-2-2 at home with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. On the road, he is 2-9-1 with a 4.01 GAA and an .850 save percentage.
“This is a media-generated issue,” Stevenson said. “It has nothing to do with Carter at all. Zero. … Carter doesn’t even look at his numbers. You want to talk to him about head trajectory, or you want to talk to him about looking off the puck and recognizing where open men are, he’ll talk to you until the cows come home.”
Stevenson said Hart uses the same routine whether he is home or away. He noted that the entire team has struggled on the road.
The Flyers are 19-5-4 at home, 12-14-3 on the road.
Still, allowing nearly 2½ more goals per game on the road than at home is downright puzzling.
“It’s a non-issue for him,” Stevenson said. “Just like all the talk from people saying, ‘Oh, Philadelphia is a goalie graveyard and the sky is falling.’ I’m not trying to be flippant. People can have their opinion, but I just don’t necessarily agree with it.”
During the All-Star break/bye week, Hart, who was recovering from a lower abdominal strain at the time, went back home to the Edmonton area and “focused on the things he can control,” Stevenson said. “He came and saw me, he saw his fitness instructor, he saw his physiotherapist, he went and saw the person who does the Pilates and yoga, and he just spent quality time with his family. He goes about his business. That’s what he does. He keeps his focus on what he needs to do to stop more pucks.”
Hart, 21, made 30 saves Monday in a 4-1 win over Florida, his first game in almost a month.
Stevenson said Hart is mature beyond his years and only concentrates on things he can control.
“Look at last February, when they brought four different goalies in in about a month,” Stevenson said. “A lot of guys would absolutely freak out about that, and Carter’s like, ‘That’s OK. I’m not the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. My job is to do everything so I can get back in the lineup as quick as possible.’ That’s his mindset.”
Here are some links to Flyers-related stories:
NHL players usually don’t give opponents much incentive with their comments.
Florida defenseman MacKenzie Weegar is an exception.
After the Panthers dropped a 4-1 decision Monday to the host Flyers, Weegar sort of guaranteed a win in the rematch Thursday in Florida.
“We can say we didn’t bear down on our chances,” Weegar said after Monday’s game, “but it’s good to see them in a few days and we’ll take back our two points.”
Thursday: at Florida, 7 p.m. (NBCSP). The Panthers will be aiming to avenge Monday’s 4-1 loss.
Saturday: at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m. (NBCSP). It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning edged the host Flyers, 1-0, on Jan. 11.
Tuesday, Feb. 18: vs. Columbus, 7 p.m. (NBCSP). The Flyers have 7-4 and 3-2 wins over the Blue Jackets this season.
Thursday, Feb. 20: at Columbus, 7 p.m. (NBCSP). Columbus, which has played admirably, will be without star defenseman Seth Jones (ankle surgery) for 8-10 weeks. Will that kill the Jackets’ playoff chances?
Saturday, Feb. 22: vs. Winnipeg, 1 p.m. (NBCSP). The Jets got three power-play goals as they blasted the Flyers, 7-3, on Dec. 15.
Monday, Feb. 24: Trade deadline, 3 p.m. The Flyers could use a forward, but their cap situation will make that difficult.
Question: Why was JVR on the ice in the final minutes of a tie game (Tuesday)? Poor decision cost them. — @TGordon_25 via Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Troy. Alain Vigneault said he had James van Riemsdyk out there with Kevin Hayes and Tyler Pitlick because the Sean Couturier line was exhausted from being on the ice so much in previous shifts. In hindsight, having a better defensive player out there, such as Scott Laughton or Joel Farabee, would have been a better choice.