If he continues to keep this up, the Calder Trophy may be Carter Hart’s trophy by the end of the season.
Of course there are still two months remaining in the regular season and Hart likely wouldn’t be one of three finalists for the NHL’s top rookie if the voting was held today, but the 20-year-old goaltender is making a remarkably strong push heading down the stretch run.
Hart has made hockey fun again, not just for the teammates he now shares a locker room with, but also for an entire city that was starting to look at this Flyers team as an afterthought this season.
“I don’t want to say you’re expecting him to fail, but you just find it hard to believe that somebody his age can come in and do what he’s been able to do so far,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said Monday night after a 2-1 win over the Canucks (see observations).
Hart has been the Flyers' catalyst during an impressive eight-game winning streak.
The rookie has proceeded to rip off seven straight wins, a feat no goaltender under the age of 21 has accomplished since Carey Price in 2008. If Hart wins his next start (likely Saturday’s game against the Ducks), he’ll match the standard established by Quebec’s Jocelyn Thibault 24 years ago.
On the same day Hart was recognized as the NHL’s second star of the week, he immediately began working on this week’s honors with a season-high 41-save performance Monday (see highlights).
“He’s been remarkable,” Sean Couturier said. “That save at the end — he’s making some miracles out there. It’s nice to have him back there, you know he can steal one.”
It was the save on Nikolay Goldobin during Vancouver’s third-period power play that fans were left talking about on their commute home, and a save that preserved another one-goal win.
“I got a front-row seat to that,” Scott Laughton said. “He dove over there and made a great save and he just gives us life and makes a big save when we need it.”
Hart upstaged the Calder Trophy front-runner Elias Pettersson, holding Vancouver’s 20-year-old sniper off the scoresheet, while improving his overall record to 10-5-1. Hart’s 471 saves in his first 16 NHL starts are more than any other goaltender since his call-up from Lehigh Valley on Dec. 18.
Three years ago, it was a "Ghost" who took the NHL by storm, lifting the Flyers' spirits following a dismal start to the season. Shayne Gostisbehere set an NHL record for a rookie defenseman with a 15-game point streak, and his spark carried the Flyers into the postseason as he eventually finished second in Calder voting to Chicago’s Artemi Panarin.
Hart is having that same affect, and light years ahead of where you’d expect a typical 20-year-old rookie.
“He’s a humble guy,” Jakub Voracek said. “Comes to work every day and he’s giving us a chance to win the game every single night — and that’s what you want from a goalie. He’s playing like he’s 28 years old.”
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