That quiet confidence that had been percolating within Philadelphia Flyers
center Jeff Carter
during the early stages of his NHL career is finally beginning to boil over.
After scoring a career-high 29 goals in 82 games in 2008-09, Carter is on the proverbial hot streak through 33 contests this season with a League-leading 25.
The white-hot Carter, who is in his fourth season, has tallied 4 goals and 3 assists in his team's last four games (2-1-1) while moving into sixth place in the NHL scoring race with 39 points. Over the past seven games (5-1-1), Carter and linemates Joffrey Lupul
and Scott Hartnell
have totaled 34 points -- with Carter heading the attack with 6 goals and 7 assists.
"It's been going great (with Lupul and Hartnell)," Carter said. "We complement each other really well. 'Loops' is kind of a finesse guy with a lot a lot of speed. Scotty likes to crash and bang down low in front of the net and creates a lot of space for myself and Loops. I always knew that I could score. I think this year I just started to play with a lot of confidence right off the bat, which has kind of helped me. I've been getting some good breaks, some good linemates, and things have been going well."
The space that Lupul and Hartnell have afforded Carter has generated more opportunities this season and, as a result, much success for the 6-foot-3, 219-pound sniper. Carter, Ontario, who ranks third in the League with 147 shots this season, owns a career-high 17 percent shooting efficiency.
Carter ranks third in the League in shooting percentage -- behind Buffalo's Thomas Vanek
(20.0) and Boston's Phil Kessel
(19.4) -- among players with 100 or more shots. His finished his rookie season in 2005-06 with a 12.2 shooting percentage on 23 goals and 189 shots.
"The fact I'm able to shoot more has definitely helped," Carter said. "Growing up, my dad always taught me you can't score if you don't shoot. So I try to put it on the net every chance I get."
That mentality has given Carter a positive feel for the net.
"'Loops' and I were recently talking about how every time we're out there, we feel we have a chance to score," Carter said. "Whenever I get a look at the net or get a chance to make a play, I'll put it on net or try and find Loops or Scotty, so it's been going well and we've been playing good."
In addition to his linemates, Carter was also encouraged by his quick start to the season. In his first 11 games, Carter posted 9 goals and 3 assists. In his opening 11 games of 2007-08, he had 6 goals and 1 assist.
"I think it was just the way things went at the start of the year," he said. "You know, I've never really been a big starter but I was this season and just kind of kept going. I think it was probably a confidence issue."
Carter's four shorthanded goals put him in a three-way tie with teammates Simon Gagne
and captain Mike Richards
for the League lead and he's also tied with four other players for the NHL lead in game-winning goals with five.
He admits the team's incredible success while a man short has surprised even him. While the Flyers remain far short of the NHL record for shorthanded goals in a season, which was established by the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers
(36), their 13 shorthanded goals this season currently lead the League.
"I think (assistant coach Craig Berube
) has us playing a real pressure style on the penalty-kill," Carter said. "Whenever we get a chance, we have the free rein to take off and see what happens. It's been going well. We've been preparing for our chances, and hopefully we'll keep it going."
But is it risky?
"I think you have to be cautious when to go and when to stick back," Carter said. "You need to know who's on the ice, too. We can't really be taking off when you've got guys like (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, and (Alex) Ovechkin out there. You've got to be aware of what's going on. I mean, if you play the right way, I don't think there's too much risk."
Carter, who turns 24 on New Year's Day, was the 11th player selected in the 2003 Entry Draft. He was the first of two key Philadelphia selections in the first round that year, including Richards at 24th overall.
"Mike (Richards) and me have a great relationship because we've played all our hockey together since the Ontario Hockey League days," Carter said. "He's been a lot of fun to play with and he's been a great leader for us."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.