Wednesday night was the second showdown between the veteran and the youngster. It would go much better this time for the youngster, Flyers goalie Carter Hart, than things went in the innaugural showdown. But in the end, the veteran, Braden Holtby, would come away with a 2-1 shootout victory. The win improved the veteran’s record to 2-0 against the youngster.
Last season Hart faced Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals for the first time and was outdueled by Holtby, giving up five goals in a 5-2 loss to the defending Champions.
“I’m just focusing on what I’m doing. He played really well tonight, made some big stops for their team,” Hart said of Holtby following the 2-1 loss. “It’s always fun competing against him. I know him a little bit. It was a good game tonight for both of us.”
Carter Hart and Braden Holtby are buds. They both use the same sports psychologist, John Stevenson. pic.twitter.com/W4nLth8Ra0
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) January 9, 2019
The connection between the two stalwart netminders began back in 2017. Hart, a Flyers prospect at the time, was dealing with a 5-4 shootout loss for Canada against the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship when he received a call from Braden Holtby.
“That was really cool for him to do that,” Hart told NHL.com. “Just to hear from him after the World Juniors, to hear from a guy like that who’s an established NHL goaltender, one of the best, was pretty cool for sure.”
John Stevenson, Hart’s mental strength coach since the goaltender was 10 years old, asked Holtby, one of his other clients, to make the call. Holtby told NHL.com reaching out to Hart was easy and something he was happy to do.
“Obviously, that was after kind of a tough loss, and you want to keep him encouraged because that’s a pretty big stage, the World Juniors in Canada,” Holtby said. “So for a young kid to have that pressure, you want to make sure he knows he’s doing all right and just keep going.”
“We come from the same area, same ties,” said Holtby, a fellow Western Canadian. “You hope well for those guys, especially a guy like Carter, a good kid, hard worker. It’s not much more than that. I think people think there’s more that goes on talking about sports, (but) it’s more talking about life back home than anything.”
Hart said he and Holtby talked about handling adversity, including some reminders about lessons they have learned from Stevenson. There also was a bit of good-natured kidding.
“He said, ‘Good luck going all the way even though you’re a Flyer,'” Hart said. “There’s that Washington-Flyers rivalry there a little bit.”
Stevenson said Hart gave him a few more details about the conversation: “At the end, Holtby said, ‘Mr. Hart, you’re a Philadelphia Flyer and when I meet you I’m going to kick your [butt].'”
“I mean goalies are a little more magnified because you’re more directly influential to the results, but when you first come up there’s nothing to lose. You’re just playing with house money,” Holtby said. “You’re just having fun, playing without any worries. The next couple years, once you’re not the call-up that’s overachieving anymore, you’re the guy that needs to perform, the pressures change. It takes some growing and adapting. Especially goaltending, you’re never in the clear. Every year there’s always different areas. Adjusting to being the No. 1 guy instead of just the young guy takes some time but he’s gonna do just fine.”
Already this season, Hart has had to show resilience as he adjusts to being the Flyers’ top goalie.
“I don’t remember a specific save (that said he was going to hold down the fort) but collectively he was pretty busy and some quality (stops) in there,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “He was on tonight. He was really good, probably our best player throughout the game and gave us a chance to make a push in the second. We were better in the second and most of the third. It ended up being a tight hockey game because he gave us a chance.”
— Byron J. Hudtloff (@ByronHudtloff) January 9, 2019
Even though he’s only 21, the same age Holtby was when he broke into the league and played his first 14 games, he’s expected to be the last line of defense.
By Jon Sorensen