Mandatory Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre
The NHL released another player ranking list and, yet again, I find myself in disagreement. First, it was the claim that Ivan Provorov is not a top twenty defenseman. Now, this issue stands with the omission of Carter Hart from the top ten goaltenders. While readers may call bias as they see this from a Philadelphia publication, there is undisputed evidence to support this claim.
Giving credit where it is due, the goaltenders in this list make up for incredible company. Carter Hart would be on the higher side of the top ten. With the pandemic pause between the regular season and the expanded playoffs, Hart capitalized with an incredible postseason display. Of course, some games were better than others. When looking at this list, there are a few names who were gifted a strong defense in front of them. However, not all of those listed had to run with sheer goaltending prowess.
First, let’s mention some of the things that Carter Hart needs to clean up in his game. He’s so far ahead of the curve when it comes to talent and ability that the Philadelphia Flyers organization should be salivating over the career he could have. As I make the argument that he is a top ten goaltender today, remember that Hart is only 22-years-old and heading into his third professional hockey season.
A Cleaner Hart
Carter Hart’s evolution to a cleaner game comes with just a few aspects to dissect. None of these so-called weaknesses are glaring; they’ve merely been highlighted on his nights off.
For instance, Carter Hart does have a knack to give up rebounds. High scoring teams, such as the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, love to capitalize on pucks on pad shots. It is a skill that’s practiced to force second chance opportunities for a trailing forward. Hart did a better job of limiting those rebounds in the playoffs, but Brian Elliott usually showed more control.
Another aspect where Carter Hart received criticism was his struggles on the road during the regular season. Just before the pause of the NHL season, he started to turn that corner. There is enough of a sample size to show that growth and development. As Hart matured in his second season, he settled into his own during his first postseason run as a Philadelphia Flyer. Of the players on the NHL Network list, Hart had one of the better 2020 Stanley Cup playoff performances.
Carter Hart in the Regular Season
What matters for comparison’s sake are the goaltenders featured on the NHL Network top ten rankings. During the 2019-2020 regular season, Carter Hart collected 24 wins. That’s more than Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner, Darcy Kuemper, and Ben Bishop. Hart’s 91.4% save percentage was also higher than Jordan Binnington and Carey Price. If the goal against average is a testament to the consistency of a goaltender’s performance, Hart allowed fewer goals on average than Markstrom, Lehner, Price, Binnington, Bishop, Connor Hellebuyck, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
In two of those major categories, Carter Hart is dunking on about half of the field. Professional sports is very much a “what have you done for me lately” industry. In 2019-2020, Hart should be a top-six goaltender on this list based on just the regular season alone. While it could be argued that his sample size isn’t quite as big, I would encourage you to also view his playoff performance.
Carter Hart in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Next, in comparison to the NHL Network’s list of top ten goaltenders, how does Hart compare in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs? His 9-5 record provides a better winning percentage than Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner, Darcy Kuemper, Carey Price, Jordan Binnington, Ben Bishop, Connor Hellebuyck, and Tuukka Rask. Hart’s 92.6% save percentage was bested only by Price and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He also dropped his goal against average from 2.42 to 2.23, which was outdone by only Price, Lehner, and Vasilevskiy. If Hart is a top-six goaltender by my own words in the regular season, he’s a top five goaltender from this recent playoff performance.
What makes this data stick is the fact that playoffs showcase the best teams battling for a championship. It is a stress test for goaltenders in particular. The Philadelphia Flyers made an Eastern Conference Semifinal appearance on the back of their goaltending. Scoring surely did not overwhelm their opponents. Just because the Flyers were not in the Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Finals does not mean that Carter Hart didn’t put on a display worthy of that honor.
Connor Hellebuyck was the recipient of the 2020 Vezina Trophy. His regular-season numbers were undoubtedly better than Carter Hart, but not by much. Everything about Hart in the postseason shatters Hellebuyck. Andrei Vasilevskiy hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2020. Hart was even closer to him in comparison during the regular season. I don’t believe many people will argue that Hellebuyck and Vasilevskiy were the measuring stick of elite goaltending in 2019-2020.
It’s time to put respect on Carter Hart’s name, NHL Network. Leaving him off the top ten list is incorrect. My ranking could have Hart higher than he should be, but if you compare the body of work in 2019-2020 in its entirety, he’s a top-five goaltender in the league. That’s certainly more accurate than leaving him entirely.