Yes, it was *only* the winless Arizona Coyotes.
But goaltender Carter Hart kept the Philadelphia Flyers in the game with a flawless performance. He allowed his team to skate away with two points and a 3-0 win at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.
Facing impressive rookie netminder Karel Vejmelka in the Arizona goal, the Flyers didn’t get on the board until Sean Couturier tallied his fourth of the year at the 6:54 mark of the third period. Scott Laughton added an insurance marker with 2:09 left to play, pouncing on the puck after Vejmelka had started to leave in favor of an extra attacker.
Giroux closed out the scoring with his fifth of the year with 1:37 remaining, tapping a feed from Couturier into the Coyotes’ empty net.
Vejmelka had a strong outing, stopping 31 shots. He had a Cam Atkinson tally overturned in the second period after successfully arguing that he had frozen the puck.
Here's the overhead look on Atkinson's no goal. Vejmelka had the puck covered for a split second. pic.twitter.com/5nEYE7law6
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) November 3, 2021
After spending his entire career to date in his native Czech Republic, Vejmelka signed a one-year free-agent contract with the Coyotes last May. He earned a roster spot during training camp, and on an Arizona team that is content to maximize its draft lottery odds this season, he has been a bright spot. In eight games played, the 25-year-old has amassed a 2.54 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, and has only allowed more than three goals in one game.
Hart is Gold
With his teammates struggling to light the lamp on Tuesday, Carter Hart held the fort until Vejmelka could finally be beaten. He made 29 saves on the night, including 11 on high-danger chances in the first two periods, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Ep 12: Biting, Montreal, COVID, and Penguins Sale Updateby Full Press Coverage on December 1, 2021 at 5:52 pm
Mike, Jim, and Chris […]
“You need good goaltending, and he gave us a chance to win tonight,” said defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, whose trademark physical game was on display with five hits on the night.
“I think today we had a bunch of quality scoring chances, especially in the first half of the game,” said Arizona’s rookie head coach, Andre Tourigny. “I don’t mind our game offensively, it is defensively. We gave up three scoring chances in the second half of the game. We need to keep it tight and find a way to get the first win.”
Asked what changes he sees in Hart’s game compared to his struggles last season, “He is battling extremely hard on all shots,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said.
“He seems in a real good place mentally. Been playing extremely well. Played extremely well again tonight. We’re like every team in the NHL that wants to have success — you have to have good goaltending and we are definitely getting it right now.”
For his part, “I feel good,” Hart said. “I mean we have a good group here. We have fun and we’re coming to work every day, our guys are doing their job in front of me of boxing guys out and letting me see the puck and of limiting second chances. We’ve done a good job of that so far.”
As for picking up his first clean sheet of the year? “I mean it’s always fun to put a zero up on the board, but two points is all that matters,” Hart said.
Tale Of The Tape
Last season, Hart’s .877 save percentage was the lowest in the NHL among goalies who appeared in 15 or more games. That matched up with a 3.67 goals-against average and a 9-11-5 record.
It was all quite unexpected from a young netminder who had put up a .915 save percentage and 2.59 goals-against average during his first two NHL seasons, while going 14 games above .500.
This year, Hart’s 3-2-1 record is just so-so. But Tuesday’s outing bumped his save percentage for the season to .928 and his goals against to 2.33 — both topping his best season to date, the Covid-shortened 2019-20 campaign.
According to MoneyPuck, Hart had an impressive 6.9 goals saved above expected in that season, or 0.177 goals saved above expected per 60 minutes of play. This year, he’s already at 5.1 goals saved above expected, which works out to an incredible .848 goals saved above expected per 60 minutes.
Those numbers place him in some elite company in the early going this season — fifth overall in the NHL, behind only Bobrovsky, Andersen, Shesterkin and Markstrom. And he’s not wrong about the help that he’s getting from the players in front of him. His teammates have blocked a solid 20.45% of shots that have been sent his way this season. Last year, it was a slightly lower 19.13%.
Battle Of Pennsylvania Looms
Vigneault told the media on Wednesday that Hart would make his seventh start of the year when the Flyers kick off an important two-game road swing against their arch-rivals in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Sidney Crosby has been placed in Covid protocol, just one game after returning from offseason wrist surgery, and will not be available. After starting the season with a 3-0-2 record, the Penguins are now on a three-game losing streak and have fallen to last place in the Metropolitan Division. They’ve scored just three goals in total in those three games while giving up 13.
Another important divisional matchup looms on Saturday when the Flyers will visit Washington to take on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Then, they’ll return home to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, November 10.