PHILADELPHIA — Carter Hart’s first full NHL season has gone well, but he knows a goalie’s reputation is built on the way he plays in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which may or may not be held because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, acknowledged earlier this week that the regular season, suspended March 12, may not resume. He sounded hopeful, however, that some sort of playoff format will he held in the summer.
That would work for Hart.
“I was definitely excited to hopefully play a playoff game this year,” the Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie said in a conference call Thursday. “It’s every kid’s dream to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I mean, hopefully we get that chance still coming up.”
Hart, 21, starred for the Everett Silvertips from 2014-18. He was named the WHL Goaltender of the Year three times and was Everett’s first recipient of the WHL’s Player of the Year award in 2018. He was drafted by the Flyers in the second round (48th overall) in 2016.
Hart is back home in the Edmonton area, trying to stay in shape by lifting weights, riding an exercise bike down his basement, performing exercises sent by Flyers strength coach Chis Osmond, and doing yoga twice a week with an instructor. He has not been on the ice during the break.
“It sucks that we’re not playing hockey right now, but there are bigger things going on in the world,” Hart said, adding he missed playing in the “electric” Wells Fargo Center.
“Everybody’s in the same boat and we all have to try to do our part. I know all the medical workers, hospital workers, and essential-service workers are all doing a great job stepping up for us. We have to do our job and stay inside and just try to stay healthy so we can all resume to our normal, everyday lives.”
Hart said he would need a week or two to “get back in sync and feel the puck” before he was ready to play.
“You don’t want to rush it right away,” he said. “When you have an extended break like this, with the uncertainty of how long it’s going to be, often comes the risk of injury when you come back. I think it’s important that whenever and if we come back that we get the proper time to get back into hockey shape.”
When the season was stopped, Hart was 24-13-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. At home, he was spectacular (20-3-2 record, 1.63 GAA, .943 save percentage), but he struggled mightily on the road, where he was 4-10-1 with a 3.81 GAA and an .857 save percentage.
If the regular season is over and the NHL doesn’t change its playoff format, the Flyers would have the home-ice advantage in a first-round series against Pittsburgh.
Hart said he has heard a “ton of rumors” on how the playoffs would be formatted if the season returns. “As professional athletes, we have to make sure we find a way to stay ready now, so when that time does come, we’re prepared no matter what kind of format it is.”
The Flyers (41-21-7) were on a 17-5-1 run when play was halted.
“We put ourselves in a good position down the stretch,” Hart said. “It definitely sucks that we didn’t get to finish it out. … Hopefully we get that chance down the line when everything gets back to normal.”
As for his first full season in the league, Hart said he learned that maintenance days — such as occasionally missing a practice after a game — were important and “keeping yourself healthy off the ice. … and doing all the little things to make sure you’re ready every night to perform and decreasing your chances of injury.”
The Flyers have held numerous group chats and many teammates have played video games against each other during the break. “We have a really tight group here,” Hart said.