“You were the chosen one!”
Every time I look at the stats for Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart this season, I think of Obi-Wan Kenobi screaming that line at Anakin Skywalker in “Revenge of the Sith,” and not just because Gen Xers like myself incessantly relate everything back to Star Wars. (It is … our destiny.)
At just 22 years old, Hart was the heir to the Canadian goaltending empire. He was the solution to the net-minding riddle that had perplexed the Flyers for decades. Maybe he wouldn’t be the next goalie run out of Philadelphia. Maybe he would be the catalyst for their first successful run to the Stanley Cup since 1975.
Hart gave fans these delusions of grandeur because he had the numbers to validate them. In his first two NHL seasons, Hart was 40-26-4 with a .915 save percentage in 74 games. He saved 21.4 goals above average and added about four wins in the standings. In last summer’s bubble playoffs, Hart had a .926 save percentage, winning nine of 14 games and creating Vezina Trophy-level expectations for the 2021 season.
Around 21 games into that season, Carter Hart … hmm, how best to put this … do you remember how Anakin Skywalker looked after that fight with Obi-Wan on Mustafar?
“He’s struggled,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Hart is 8-8-3 with a goals-against average of 3.85 and a save percentage of .875. His even-strength save percentage is .885, which is the worst in the NHL for goalies with at least 20 games played. Analytically, he has been the league’s worst goaltender: His minus-18.1 goals saved above average is almost double that of the next-worst goalie in that metric, the Ottawa Senators‘ Matt Murray (minus-9.7).
According to Evolving Hockey, Hart has cost the Flyers three wins in the standings. An extra six points, and they’re tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the East Division. Instead, they’re in fifth place with 34 points and a .548 points percentage, spiraling to a 3-6-1 record in their past 10 games.
What happened to Carter Hart?