Due to the condensed schedule created thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was one position that was going to be more important than ever in this truncated NHL season. Goaltending. The Flyers were no exception, neither is Brian Elliott.
With 56 games packed into 5 months of action the need for teams to have not just one, but two competent goaltenders on hand was going to be crucial to team success. In this 100m dash of a season having fresh legs to rely on between the pipes was priority #1.
Of course, the starting job was always going to go to young blossoming phenom, Carter Hart. As talented and promising as Hart may be, he was still going to need help carrying the load.
Enter 35-year-old Brian Elliott, coming back to the Flyers on a one-year $1.5 mil AAV for his fourth consecutive season with the team. Bringing back the man his teammates affectionately refer to as ‘Moose’ was one of the first orders of business for Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, and rightfully so.
With such a jam-packed schedule, having Brian Elliott on hand to keep Hart fresh and put up quality starts in his stead has been a boon for the Flyers’ success thus far. Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault has remarked on the importance of getting guys in and out of the lineup especially with the upcoming stretch of 6 games in 9 nights.
“We’re playing six games in nine nights, and I have a feeling that if I can, I will be using more personnel. I don’t recall any time in my coaching career [playing] six games in nine nights. We’re not the only team; a lot of teams are doing that.” Vigneault said.
Just how good has Elliott been? Well, after blanking the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night in a 3-0 Flyers victory-his second shutout of the season-Elliott now holds a season Sv% of .931 and has a record of 5-1. That’s good for the 4th best Sv% league-wide among goaltenders that have played at least 5 games, ranking behind only Marc-Andre Fleury, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Mike Smith.
Elliott also holds a 2.03 GAA again ranking 4th in the league and is especially impressive considering the Flyers are allowing 3.06 goals per game on the year. That’s over one less goal per game when Elliott pads up.
The advanced stats paint a similar picture. Per Evolving-Hockey, among goaltenders with 5 games played Elliott slots in at 6th with a 4.41 GSAx( goals saved above expected). In other words, Elliott has stopped 4 more goals than he was expected to this season based on shot quality.
Suffice to say, ‘Moose’ has been standing on his proverbial antlers this season. Given that Hart has struggled at times this year (5-3, .891 Sv%, 3.68 GAA) Elliott’s strong performance has been one of the biggest reasons for the Flyers’ success and he’ll be a critical factor in the team accomplishing their goals for the rest of the year.