Elliott Stepping Up When Flyers Need Him Most
It was following the Flyers 6-5 shootout win over the Boston Bruins on Jan. 13 that their worst nightmare came true. Carter Hart was injured and would be out for three weeks.
On one hand, if it was going to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The Flyers had four games remaining before the All-Star break and bye week and could see their way through without Hart missing much time. But since, that time came and went and while Hart did skate with the team on Monday and gets closer to a return, the Flyers have spent seven games without him.
Enter veteran netminder Brian Elliott, who was going to have to shoulder the load while the team waited for Hart to return. Elliott’s first start as the leading netminder came on Jan. 16 against St. Louis, a game the Flyers were able to win, 4-3, in overtime. Since that start, Elliott has posted a 4-0-1 record with a 1.58 GAA.
Simply put, Elliott has stepped up in a time when the Flyers needed him the most. With both Hart and Elliott on the bench, the Flyers had stability in goal, the ability to put either netminder in and expect a solid result. When Hart went down, it threw Alex Lyon into action as well. Given the Flyers place in the standings, Elliott was going to receive a bulk of the starts.
Following the overtime win in St. Louis, Elliott was excellent in a win over the Kings, making 34 saves, then posted a shutout win over the Penguins making 19 saves to enter the break. The first game back from the break, though not his best, saw Elliott make 16 saves in an overtime loss to the Penguins that earned the Flyers another point. His 16-save performance against Detroit earned him a second shutout in two weeks time and also the 40th of his career.
It’s important to remember how the Flyers have reached this point of the schedule, by getting good goaltending throughout the season -- hold for the 1-4-1 road trip to end December and start January that is becoming more and more of a distant memory with each start. Since that road trip, the Flyers are 7-2-1 and have moved into a tie for third place in the Metropolitan Division entering play on Tuesday.
Elliott’s role won’t change moving forward. The Flyers have established a balance that ensures that neither goalie is overworked. With six more sets of back-to-backs on the schedule, Elliott will get his share of starts for the remainder of the season.
And the Flyers will need Elliott to be what he has been to this point. It was certainly possible that the Flyers could have watched the season slip away following the road trip by getting outworked and overmatched by the best teams in the league. They have played Washington, Tampa Bay, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh twice, Colorado and will face Washington again, Florida twice, the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay again and Columbus twice before this stretch of 14 games against Top-10 teams in the league in a span of six weeks comes to an end. So far, the Flyers are 5-1-1 with seven more to go, all coming consecutively starting on Saturday and ending on Feb. 20, nearly two weeks later.
Instead, with Elliott helping to lead the way, the Flyers are right in the middle of a playoff race in the NHL’s most competitive division. With just 29 games left on the schedule, that’s a great place to be.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.