The decision to sign Michal Neuvirth over Steve Mason was certainly a baffling decision at first. Neuvirth was often injured and never showed the potential of being a starting goaltender. Mason had more than earned that right. The Flyers decided to sign veteran goaltender Brian Elliott, anticipating a goaltending tandem.
Ron Hextall had been adamant about using the tandem role as he signed Neuvirth and allowed Mason to walk into free agency. It has been anything but a tandem thus far, however.
Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s No. Two Star of the Week on December 18th, a week after capturing the No. Three Star of the Week. On the season, Elliott is 13-8-7 with a 2.59 GAA and a .916 SV%. He has started 28 of the teams 36 games this season. He made a relief appearance in one game as well.
Lately, the Flyers have been receiving top of the league play from Brian Elliott. The team has to hope, though, that Elliott’s play doesn’t regress to how the season started.
Early Season Struggles A Recent Trend For Brian Elliott
Before coming over to the Flyers, Elliott struggled mightily with the Calgary Flames. His first half of the season was one to forget, posting an 8-10-1 record. A 2.95 GAA and .889 SV% forced him to lose his job to backup Chad Johnson. At the time, Elliott was anything but the goaltender that the Flames had wanted.
But during the second half of the year, Elliott’s play improved from month-to-month. He finished his final 21 games with an impressive 15-5-1 record with a 2.17 GAA and a .927 SV%.
The record early on this season didn’t suggest any issues. Elliott would finish the first month of the season with a 5-2-1 record. It was his other numbers that posed a problem, however. During the month of October, Elliott posted a 3.23 GAA and a .884 SV%. More often than not, he was being bailed out by the rest of his team. The dominance of the Flyers top line was overshadowing Elliott’s troubling numbers.
Just like what happened with the Flames in the second half, Elliott found a way to turn his play around. Luckily, the Flyers haven’t had to wait until the next calendar year for him to do so.
Forced Into Duty
After Neuvirth went down with an injury last month, Elliott was forced into non-stop duty. The Flyers recalled Alex Lyon from the Phantoms to play the backup role. Lyon had little NHL experience and the Flyers were desperate for points. This left Elliott with the everyday starter’s role.
The workload didn’t faze Elliott one bit during this stretch. In eight games, Elliott posted a 6-2 record and was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week. He had a 1.48 GAA and a .949 SV% during that time.
“Our team has confidence in him,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s a real position of strength for our bench and for the guys that are out on the ice. It’s not just the things that you see on a nightly basis on game nights. Brian does such a good job on a daily basis of approaching his day of work.”
Neuvirth was not available to play in the team’s last two games before the break. But Elliott has already proven that he can do more than enough to help this team win day in and day out.
Going back to November 1st, Elliott has been among the league’s best goaltenders. Even during the Flyers 10-game losing streak, he only lost two of the seven starts in regulation. Elliott also posted a .908 SV% during that stretch. The numbers were even better during the Flyers run of seven wins in eight games.
Before the team’s last two games, Elliott’s 1.98 GAA and a .931 SV% helped Philadelphia capture 14 out of a possible 16 points in their previous eight games. And in an ironic fashion, the streak kicked off with a 43-save performance against the Flames.
Playing in his 11th game in a row this past weekend, Elliott continued to impress despite the team dropping both games. He only gave up three goals against the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets combined. Arguably the best player in both games, Elliott continued his stellar play as of late. It’s a trend that has followed him for most of the season.
Looking at the season as a whole, Elliott is not considered one of the best goaltenders in the league. But he is doing enough to help the Flyers stay afloat in the playoff race. Only four points out of a wild-card spot, the Flyers can thank Brian Elliott for his steady play in net over this recent stretch.
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