The Philadelphia Flyers have been living in goalie hell for much of the 26 years of my life. Many have tried yet all have failed to be come “the guy” in Philly that would deliver the Flyers their first Stanley Cup since 1975. Since the start of the 1997-98 season, a year after the Flyers made the finals, the team has had 28 different goalies start at least one game for them. That number is almost as staggering as the number of Cleveland Brown quarterbacks to start a game. Flyers fans have long hoped and prayed for a savior between the pipes, a god sent from above that would lead the franchise once again to the promised land, and they may have finally got their wish.
The Flyers made Hart the first goalie taken in the 2016 draft when they selected him in the second round with the 48th overall pick. From that moment the clock has been ticking. He made his long awaited Flyers debut on Tuesday night and recorded his first career win as the orange and black took down Detroit 3-2. So, how did the kid look? As much as I would love to say he love to say he looked every bit of the hall of famer we all hope we will be, he didn’t. He was as solid as you’d hope a twenty-year-old rookie would look.
In juniors, Hart was one of if not the best goaltenders of all time. A three time WHL goalie of the year, a two time CHL goalie of the year, both records, and he posted the best single season save percentage last season at .947. Make no mistake those are legendary numbers.
Philadelphia is starved for a franchise goaltender. The children of this fair city lay awake at night praying for a goalie to be proud of. If you’re a Flyers fan get ready to cringe. Brian Boucher, Antero Nittymaki, and Maxime Ouellete are all names of former young net minders the Flyers and their fans hoped would be the next big thing. Spoiler alert, none of them were. Boucher’s magical run in the 2000 playoffs had fans as swollen in the pants as they could possibly be. In the end injuries and inconsistent play made him just another victim to our goalie curse. Nittymaki showed flashes at times and was very solid while constantly battling Robert Esche for the number one job. However, again his efforts fell short of being the high end NHL goalie that’s required to win a championship. Which brings me to the biggest disappointment of my lifetime. Maxime Ouellete was so tragically bad that my father can’t help but shake his head and sigh when I bring up the former first round pick. Ouellete was taken 22nd overall by the Flyers in 1999 and played in just two games for the club before being dealt to Washington in the 2001-02 season. In total Ouellete played in twelve total NHL games recording only two wins. Their are inmates in this country that are less of disappointments than Maxime Ouellete.
The list of young promising failures pails in comparison to the list of veterans brought in to stifle the Flyers goalie woes. If you’re a Flyers fan you know the names. Snow, Vanbiesbrouck, Burke, Cechmanek , Esche, Biron, Bryzgalov, and Mason are just a few of the names that haunt Philadelphia. Want me to add to the nightmare? The Flyers decided to sign John Vanbiesbrouck over future hall of famer Ed Belfour in 1998. In 2011 the team signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9 year $51MM contract. In doing so they eventually moved on from fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky. The Flyers eventually bought out Bryz – a contract their still paying – and Bobrovsky has gone on to win two Vezina Trophy’s with Columbus.
Then of course there’s the darkest memory in the minds of all Flyers fans. November 11, 1985. The day Pelle Lindbergh died tragically in a car crash. Five months before his deadly crash Lindbergh lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup final and won the Vezina Trophy awarded to the leagues best goalie. Lindbergh without a doubt was the most dominant Flyers goaltended since Bernie Parent who won the team back to back cups in ’74 and ’75. The Flyers were poised to make another run to the finals in the ’85-’86 season before Lindbergh’s death. The tragedy sent shockwaves throughout the NHL and ultimately derailed the Flyers season. Lindbergh was good, he was Hall of Fame level good. The 26 year old was in the prime of his career as well as his life and had the city of Philadelphia in the palm of his hand.
Is it any wonder us Flyers fans are afraid to let another goalie into our hearts? You can only be left at the alter so many times before you stop trying to get married. Yet here we go again. Just when all hope seems to be lost in steps goalie heart throb Carter Hart with his poised demeanor, near perfect positioning, and boyband good looks. The kid has been seeing a sports psychologist since the age of ten, so he’s more than capable of handling the Philly fans who are notoriously rough on their goalies. He has all the skills you’d want in your franchise player quickness, positioning, patience. Carter Hart is the total package. It is no longer a desire by Philly fans for an elite goalie. It is now a need. We need Carter Hart to pan out like we need air to breathe. We need to finally go into a playoff series and not have to use both of our sub par goalie options. The Philadelphia goalie graveyard is vast and its dark. Hart is a light at the end of this long dark tunnel. Hart is the goalie Philadelphia deserves.
Featured photo: The Hockey News