Ice cream and a memory remind us Hart is just a kid ... but ready for the moment

 nbcsports.com  08/14/2020 01:35:58 

When Carey Price was at his most dominant, winning the Vezina Trophy (top goalie) and Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) in 2014-15, Carter Hart was just 16 years old. 

The precocious but innocent kid had just begun molding his game at the junior hockey level with the WHL's Silvertips in Everett, Washington.

Price was at the sport's pinnacle.

"He was my favorite goalie growing up," Hart said.

On Wednesday, the night before his 22nd birthday, Hart found himself stretching next to Price at the center-ice line in front of the scorekeepers' bench.

There was Hart, on the same NHL stage as his idol, facing him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL postseason is serious business, requiring the utmost competitiveness and focus. Hart, whose youthfulness often belies his maturity, fully understands the beast that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the postseason makes for special moments and memories. NHL players all looked up to someone at some point. For Hart, he allowed himself to appreciate the storyline ahead.

"Definitely really cool," Hart said last Sunday about the upcoming best-of-seven first-round matchup with Price's Canadiens. "Just had the chance to actually meet him the other week and talk with him for the first time, so that was something pretty cool. For your first playoff series, playing against Carey Price will definitely be a lot of fun; I look forward to it."

Price, who turns 33 years old on Sunday, was unable to spoil the youngster's birthday. By midnight, Hart and the top-seeded Flyers had a 1-0 series lead after earning a hard-fought 2-1 victory over eighth-seeded Montreal. Hart is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .966 save percentage through three games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

On the ice, the Flyers were able to celebrate around Hart after he turned away 27 of 28 shots, with 16 of those saves coming in the second period when the Flyers really needed him.

Off the ice, they made sure to celebrate Hart's birthday a little early, making the best of the circumstances in the Eastern Conference's Toronto bubble.

I think some guys got him some ice cream yesterday after the game and just sang him happy birthday," Shayne Gostisbehere said Thursday with a smile. "Hes been pretty good.

Let him do his thing, Scott Laughton chimed in about Hart.

Yeah, let him do his thing," Gostisbehere echoed.

After a short and sweet exchange with Price, Hart did his thing in Game 1.

Just said hello quickly in warmups, good luck and it was just time to go play," Hart said.

When you gotta keep your cool around your idol...and try to beat him in the #StanleyCup Playoffs! pic.twitter.com/sYU2SYTpR0

— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) August 13, 2020

If Hart continues to play the way he has this season and to start the tournament, he could remember the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for much more than a memorable matchup with Price.

But there's a kid in everyone. Then again, Hart is only 22 years old.

"Hes a special kid," Derek Grant said last week. "Hes so calm. He puts his mask on, you dont know how old he is."

With his mask off, Hart hopefully enjoyed a little ice cream and soaked in the moment.

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Canadiens head coach Claude Julien has been hospitalized because of chest pain, the team announced Thursday.

Julien is not expected to return to the bench for the Canadiens' best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Flyers. Assistant coach Kirk Muller will take over head coaching duties in the interim.

Julien was behind the bench leading Montreal in Game 1 Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The Flyers beat the Canadiens, 2-1, while the series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET.

Here is a statement from Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, via the team's official website:

Good afternoon. I'm here to inform you of the reason Claude Julien was not here this morning at practice. Claude experienced chest pain during the night. We immediately consulted our doctors and it was agreed to transfer him to the hospital by ambulance. He's presently there and he's undergoing tests to determine the exact nature of his condition. This has nothing to do with COVID.

We don't expect him to be back during this series against the Flyers. Kirk, Dominique [Ducharme] and Luke [Richardson] will share the responsibility, however, Kirk is the associate head coach and he will assume the responsibility of head coach until Claude's return.  

We understand that Kirk does not speak French, but these are exceptional circumstances and we're asking you for your understanding. Out of respect for Claude and his family, I will not answer any further questions about his medical condition.

The veteran coach led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. The 60-year-old began his NHL head coaching career in Montreal and has been with the club for parts of seven seasons.

"Theres no doubt that theres a deep bond and a deep respect because we know the jobs that were doing," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said about Julien before the series.

Vigneault, 59, also began his NHL head coaching career in Montreal. From 1981-83, Vigneault and Julien were teammates on the Central Hockey League's Salt Lake Golden Eagles.

"I didn't see him after the game," Vigneault said Thursday afternoon in a video interview following practice. "I've known Claude since I was 20, so we go way back, good friends. I'm going to reach out with him; I just found out the news, I want to say 20 minutes ago, just before jumping on the bus. I'm not aware of exactly what happened."

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On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra and Jordan Hall discuss the good, some bad and what's ahead following the team's tight Game 1 win over the Canadiens.

From the goalie matchup to something important to remember, let's dive in:

" 1:15  Flyers fans were nervous in Game 1; that's a good thing

" 3:30  Have the Flyers been the best team in the tourney so far?

" 5:00  Biggest takeaways from Game 1, good and bad

" 9:15  Did the Flyers get under Carey Price's skin?

" 15:20  How concerned are we about that shaky second period?

" 19:45  Joel Farabee, so impressive, so smart

" 24:50  What do we think about Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and the defensive pairs?

" 29:35  Something to remember ahead of Game 2

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

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