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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Flyers Notebook: Displaying plenty of Hart

Posted by Eric Fisher On February 9

With their shootout loss Thursday against the Kings, halting their eight-game winning streak, the Flyers are no longer the hottest team in the NHL.

But Carter Hart is still the hottest goalie and hottest rookie in the NHL.

The 20-year-old Hart has won seven straight starts, becoming only the fourth goalie in NHL history to win seven straight games before his 21st birthday. The last goalie to win seven in a row before turning 21 was the Canadiens’ Carey Price. The record of eight was set by Jocelyn Thibault in March of 1995. Hart will try to tie that record Saturday (1 p.m.) against the Ducks.

In his last five starts, Hart has allowed one or two goals four times. It’s stating the obvious to say that a team has a lot better chance of winning when it only allows one or two goals rather than three or four – or more.

Hart is 10-5-1 since a combination of injuries and poor goaltending forced the Flyers to call him up in mid-December, early than they had planned. In 16 starts since being called up, Hart is 10-5-1 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He made 41 saves Monday during a 2-1 victory over the Canucks.

What stands out more than the numbers is Hart’s poise. The rookie never looks rattled. He appears calm and confident in net, and that attitude spreads to his teammates.

Hart shouldn’t receive all of the credit for the Flyers’ recent reversal of fortune, but it would be foolish to downplay his significance in the eight-game winning streak. When players aren’t worried that every mistake they make will end up in the back of the net, they are able to play with more confidence and aggressiveness.

Hart is playing so well that it’s easy to forget that he is a rookie. What is clear to everyone is that Hart is living up to his billing as the goalie of the future – even though the future arrived a little earlier than expected.

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STOLARZ BACK IN FORM: While we’re on the subject of goalies, Anthony Stolarz has played extremely well in his two starts after missing six weeks due an injury. Stolarz made 38 saves during a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers in his return on Jan. 29. Although he was the goal Thursday when the eight-game winning streak ended, Stolarz couldn’t be blamed after making 37 saves during regulation and overtime.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Stolarz when veteran Brian Elliott is cleared to play, which is expected to be within the next 10 days. Will the Flyers send Stolarz to the Phantoms or will they see which goalie could bring them the most in return in a trade, with the survivor spending the rest of the season as Hart’s backup.

*****

FRANCHISE MILESTONE: Not only was Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Canucks the Flyers’ eight straight win, but it also was the 2,000th victory in franchise history. The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, but they’ve been a contending team for most of the franchise’s history. The only team to reach 2,000 victories in fewer games than the Flyers was Montreal.

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COUTURIER IN CONTROL: Another factor in the Flyers’ eight-game winning streak that shouldn’t be overlooked is the play of Sean Couturier. Coming off a career-best season last year (31 goals, 45 assists), Couturier got off to a slow start this season after suffering a summer injury to his right knee, the same one he injured during the playoff series with the Penguins. However, Couturier is playing his best hockey of the season during the past month, with points in 10 of 11 games.

During the Flyers past 11 games, Couturier has seven goals and nine assists. He has a goal in each of the Flyers’ last three games. Couturier is also a plus-12 in plus-minus ratings during this 11-game span. The bottom line is he once again looks like the player who frequently dominated both ends of the ice last season, especially toward the end of the year.

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TRADE DEADLINE: The NHL trade deadline is Mon., Feb. 25, a little more than two weeks away. It will be interesting to see if the Flyers’ recent resurgence, moving them within range a playoff spot, will alter the plans of general manager Chuck Fletcher in terms of whether the Flyers will be buying or selling.

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WAIVING GOODBYE: The Flyers continued to look go toward the future by putting forward Jori Lehtera on waivers. Lehtera has only played 27 games this season, registering one goal and two assists, so there’s no reason for him to take up a roster spot that could be filled by a younger player. It probably didn’t help Lehtera’s situation that he’s been charged in Finland in a case involving a cocaine ring, but his play didn’t justify keeping a roster spot on a team that is trying to build toward the future. Lehtera is clearly not part of the Flyers’ future.

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FUTURE IS NOW: The Flyers’ young defense might be about to get younger. Reports are that the Flyers are recalling Phil Myers. Whether that means he’s going to get into the lineup or if it’s just a one day callup to replace Christian Folin – who was traded to the Canadiens today, along with forward Dale Weise – remains to be seen. Either way, don’t be surprised to see Myers in orange and black this season.

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GORDON DESERVES CREDIT: While we’re handing out credit for the Flyers’ eight-game winning streak, we shouldn’t forget head coach Scott Gordon. With or without Carter Hart, it’s difficult to imagine the Flyers putting together this kind of streak this season under former head coach Dave Hakstol.

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BACK-TO-BACKS: After completing a stretch of four home games against Western Conference teams today (1 p.m.) against the Ducks, the Flyers will wrap up their five-game homestand Monday (7 p.m.) against the Penguins. They will then travel to Minnesota to face the Wild on Tuesday (8 p.m.). The Flyers will then have three days off before facing the Red Wings next weekend at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (1 p.m.) and in Detroit on Sunday (6 p.m.).

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