When it was finally looking like the end of the disastrous era of terrible Philadelphia Flyers goaltenders was coming to an end, everything had to take a complete 180.
Carter Hart, the team's top prospect in decades, has struggled mightily since the 2020 playoffs, where Hart had two shutouts and a 9-5-0 record with a 9.26 save percentage. Hart was a highlight of the post-season, giving the Flyers a chance to win in nearly every possible start.
Since then? It's been downright ugly. Hart had a 9-11-5 record in 27 games with a brutal .877 SP – making him easily one of the worst starting goaltenders in the NHL.
And while he has just one start this season, a 5-4 loss to Vancouver, it couldn't have gone much worse. It's not that the Flyers lost, it's that some terrible gaffes by the young goaltender directly led to the loss. Hart allowed two terrible-angle goals, including one off the back of the boards and another from as close to the boards as Elias Pettersson could have gotten. He played better later in the game, but Hart needs to be more Jekyll and less Hyde.
It's a small sample size to start with, but it doesn't do much to help quiver expectations after the year he had last season. Hart still looks lost – he's not tracking pucks like he used to, seems a bit jittery and his angles looked all over the place against the Canucks.
This wouldn't be such a big deal if Hart hadn't started so strong in his career. Hart looked solid as a 21-year-old rookie in 2018-19 before becoming Philly's true No. 1 the following season. There were growing pains, for sure, but Hart had the stats to back up the believers who considered him one of the best young goalies in the game. But it's been tough sledding ever since, and the Flyers need Hart to find his game, and fast.
The Flyers play in a competitive Metropolitan Division, and Hart will have his work cut out for him facing some of the league's top players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin and Sebastian Aho on a nightly basis. Hart has shown he can be the best player in any given game, but it can't be once every four or five games.
The Flyers must still feel confident in his abilities as a No. 1 goaltender. Hart is going to get the bulk of the starts early on in the season to get his confidence back. Martin Jones isn't exactly a worthy replacement, and at 23, Hart is still young. But it isn't going to matter what the Flyers did during a solid off-season if Hart can't figure it out. Again, it's still extremely early, but his season debut looked a bit more like the horrors of the season's past than a progressive stance for the future.
He just needs to be better. Period.