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Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards: Goaltenders

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The Elliott-Neuvirth platoon has been ... a bit more Elliott-leaning. How’s it worked out for the Flyers?

NHL: NOV 21 Canucks at Flyers Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The final two players to get mid-term report cards during the bye week here on BSH are, of course, the two guys wearing all the big pads. Here, we’ll look at how the 2017-18 season has gone for Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. Enjoy.

(Stats below are from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, corsica.hockey, and hockeyviz.com. Any statistics regarding ranks relative to the NHL are through Tuesday’s games.)


Brian Elliott

Overall Numbers: .910 SV%, 2.74 GAA, 16-10-7 in 34 GP (33 starts)
5-on-5 Performance: 93.14% Save Percentage, 0.67% dSv%*, 98.66% Low-Danger Save Percentage, 91.95% Medium-Danger Save Percentage, 80.58% High-Danger Save Percentage, 5.34 Goals Saved Above Average

* dSv% is the difference between what a goalie’s expected save percentage would be based on the types/locations of shots that he’s faced and his actual save percentage. Positive numbers are good.

In short: Expected to be a part of a goalie platoon, Brian Elliott has (unsurprisingly) had to carry the load for the Flyers, and he’s fared OK for himself in doing so.

How so? Elliott’s Flyers career got out to a fairly eventful and not-always-good start that we here described as “boom or bust” back at the time; it seemed like night in and night out, Elliott was either doing just enough to keep the Flyers in the game or was totaly imploding out there. It was a less than reassuring welcome from the newest Flyer, and the “timeshare” between him and Michal Neuvirth looked like it had the chance to tip away from him.

But come November, it was pretty clear that Elliott was the goalie that Dave Hakstol believed in the most, and Elliott rewarded that faith more often than not with strong play. And in December, when Michal Neuvirth was injured early in the month and didn’t play again until after the New Year, all Elliott did was start every game and post a .927 save percentage in doing so.

What was “expected” to be a timeshare in net, insofar as people expected Michal Neuvirth to stay healthy (more on that in a bit), has by and large been the Brian Elliott show. And outside of the work of the team’s top three forwards, Elliott is the biggest reason that the Flyers have managed to outscore their opponents on the season at 5-on-5. Struggles on the penalty kill have dragged his overall performance down a bit, but on the whole Elliott has been a serviceable goalie in his first year with the Flyers, particularly considering what’s been asked of him.

Yeah, but: Should we be concerned with his workload? Elliott’s already played in 34 games this season; he hasn’t reached the 50s in games played in any of his previous six seasons, and we’ve got 40 games left in the season. A career-high in starts at 32 is a tough ask. Also, are all Flyers goalies doomed to play poorly on the penalty kill, where Elliott has struggled mightily (to be more specific, Elliott has the sixth-worst PK save percentage in the league among all goalies with at least 40 minutes on the PK)?

Still, though ... The Flyers have had enough of a sample of goaltenders that have performed well at 5-on-5 but have struggled on the penalty kill (Steve Mason, hello) that you almost have to wonder if there’s a scheme/systemic issue at hand here that’s hurting the goalies’ ability to make saves. I say ‘wonder’ because I can’t say it with certainty and I don’t want to totally let Elliott off the hook here for his own performance, but it (namely, the question of what exactly Ian Laperriere is doing with this team’s penalty kill) is certainly a discussion to be had, albeit in some other forum and at some other time.

As for the workload, it remains to be seen how that impacts Elliott. This bye week could not possibly have come at a better time for him, after starting every game in December and the team’s first three in January before finally getting a seat last Sunday against Buffalo. Hopefully six full days off (assuming he gets the start against New Jersey on Saturday) have him recharged enough to play well the rest of the way, and the All-Star break will give him another chance this month to get some rest.

(Sidebar: can we talk about how the NHL gives each team a five-day break in the two to three-week period that happens to be just barely after a league-wide three-day break and just barely before a league-wide four-day break, and how silly that is? I think I read a while ago that they may have done this on purpose to make it easier to move schedules around in the event that a last-minute deal was met for players to go to the Olympics, but in a world where that, y’know, didn’t happen, it just looks kind of ridiculous. Put those in mid-late February and early March. I’m sure teams would love a chance to get some extra juice before making their playoff pushes. Anywho.)

Still, workload management is probably going to be important for Elliott in the event that the Flyers are in the running for a playoff spot down the stretch. He showed some signs of fatigue during his 16-game run. And there is some recent precedent here of him wearing down a bit that’s worth noting: after a strong late push last season with Calgary, Elliott’s play tailed off a bit in April just before the playoffs, and he was then unquestionably brutal in the Flames’ four-game butt-kicking at the hands of Anaheim.

In a season where Elliott will likely, barring injury, set a career-high in appearances, the Flyers need to be judicious about giving him breaks and not leaning too hard on him unless they have no other choice. That’s not an area in which this coaching staff has always excelled — we all know that when Dave Hakstol believes in one of his goalies, he’s going to ride with him until he can’t possibly do so any longer — but if this team has any sort of ambitions of getting good goaltending late in the season and maybe even in the playoffs, they’re going to need to be careful about this.

Grade: B. The Flyers Goalie On The Penalty Kill bugaboo is still present, and Elliott’s poor performance against the man-advantage is the main force keeping him from a higher grade here despite strong 5-on-5 numbers. But he’s been asked to handle about as much as could realistically have been asked of him, and he’s held up alright in those tough circumstances.

Poll

How would you grade Brian Elliott’s play in the first half of the 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (2 votes)
  • 11%
    A
    (28 votes)
  • 14%
    A-
    (35 votes)
  • 37%
    B+
    (90 votes)
  • 24%
    B
    (58 votes)
  • 5%
    B-
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    C+
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    C
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    C-
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    D+
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    D
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    D-
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
237 votes total Vote Now

Michal Neuvirth

Overall Numbers: .921 SV%, 2.48 GAA, 3-5-1 in 10 GP (9 starts)
5-on-5 Performance: 94.69% Save Percentage, 1.37% dSv%, 97.39% Low-Danger Save Percentage, 92.65% Medium-Danger Save Percentage, 87.50% High-Danger Save Percentage, 2.83 Goals Saved Above Average

In short: Michal Neuvirth has been a reasonably effective goalie when on the ice, but inconsistency and (more importantly) injury have kept the Flyers from getting much out of him and have forced them to lean on his teammate. (I realize I could have just said “Michal Neuvirth has been Michal Neuvirth”, but I think I’ve played that bit out already today.)

How so? On the ice, what’s true about Elliott’s season has, in some key ways, been even more true about Neuvirth’s. Among the 59 goalies with at least 400 5-on-5 minutes, Neuvirth ranks fourth in save percentage, having stopped an impressive 94.69 percent of shots he’s faced. And yet for as good as Neuvirth has been at even strength, he’s been about as bad on the penalty kill; among the 58 goalies with at least 40 minutes played on the PK, Neuvirth’s save percentage of 82 percent sits eighth from the bottom.

To be clear, the overall picture for Neuvirth while on the ice is a positive one. His total save percentage of 92.09 is certainly above-average. Some sort of rebound was more or less inevitable following his absolutely brutal season last year, but the fact that he’s looked closer to what he was in his first season with the Flyers — the one where he, when healthy, legitimately pushed Steve Mason in his starting job — is a welcome development.

However, we all know what the ‘but’ is here, so let’s just get to it.

Yeah, but: (Stealing my own thunder out here. Rough world.) It would’ve been nice to have that high-end goaltending during the entire month of December when he was injured, wouldn’t it have?

Still, though ... Yep. This is the Michal Neuvirth story. Each of his three seasons with the Flyers have at least been dotted with (if not coated in) injury issues. It’s why Neuvirth, despite being around the top-third of NHL goalies this season in save percentage, is rocking a fairly pedestrian Goals Saved Above Average (in other words, how many more goals he’s saved than a league-average goalie would have in his position) of just 2.84 goals across all situations/game states.

There’s not a whole lot more to say than that. The Flyers pretty much knew that this was a real possibility when they brought Neuvirth back on a two-year deal, but they gambled that he’d be able to stay healthy AND bounce back in net. They’ve got one of the two. Hopefully, for their sake and his (and for Brian Elliott’s), they can get both in the second half of the season.

Grade: B-. For most players, I would refrain from using “he got injured” as a point against him in grading. For Neuvirth, though, this is commonplace enough that it needs to be taken into account when trying to describe what he brings to the table in full, and because of it it’s tough to say with confidence that he’ll be there for the Flyers down the stretch. Hopefully he will be, because when on the ice he’s been much-improved from last season, and the Flyers could use the kind of goaltending he’s brought as they fight for every point they can get down the stretch.

Poll

How would you grade Michal Neuvirth’s play in the first half of the 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    A
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    A-
    (4 votes)
  • 7%
    B+
    (15 votes)
  • 20%
    B
    (42 votes)
  • 15%
    B-
    (32 votes)
  • 18%
    C+
    (39 votes)
  • 18%
    C
    (39 votes)
  • 11%
    C-
    (23 votes)
  • 1%
    D+
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
207 votes total Vote Now

Previously in Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards: