Expectations have not been met. That's for certain. Before the season there was so much buzz about the Flyers and how they could build off last year's playoff run. Currently sitting at 5th in the MassMutual East Division, things are not looking too favorable. Just to think about the Orange and Black went from having whirls of optimism, to being in a deep hole just in a matter of months, is kinda crazy, but I can't say I didn't see it coming.
Photo by Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The less than perfect Flyers, currently presenting themselves with a -22 goal differential, including giving up 75 goals in the last 17 games, have been two to three points away from grabbing 4th place in the standings for three weeks now. You would expect the team to be playing with tons of heart and fight. Unfortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth.
It starts with the defense, and to put it plainly, the defense has been shockingly dreadful the last couple of weeks. It was evident that the backline would be subpar coming into the season, but all eyes were set on Carter Hart. We thought his excellent play in the net was supposed to nullify our defensive woes. We couldn't have been more wrong.
To be fair, the extremely high expectations were very much warranted. Hart through his first two NHL seasons had a record of 40-26-4 with a .915 save percentage. In last summer's playoffs, Hart won 9 of his 14 games with a .926 save percentage. He was showing whispers of Veniza Trophy level play.
So far this season, Hart has an even-strength save percentage of .880, which is worst in the NHL for goalies that have played at least 20 games. Philadelphia has the 28th ranked penalty kill, almost 6% below league average, and to add insult to injury, the Flyers have the worst defense off the rush in hockey.
You could make an entire grocery list of excuses for Hart, but the most evident root of his struggles this season has been his confidence. "Confidence is a funny thing, It's a results business. If you aren't getting results, it's hard to feel like you are on top of your game," is what GM, Chuck Fletcher, said about Carter's confidence, or lack thereof, this season.
Hart, just being 22 years of age, still has enormous room for growth. And in a couple of years, he will be one of the best Goal Tenders in the league. He is just going through some major bumps in the road. No, he does not look anywhere near his normal self, but yes, I do have faith he will get over the hump, and so should you. C'mon, we all know the Flyers can't have two good seasons in a row.