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2017-18 Player Review: The very average season of Brian Elliott

Elliott looked to be on pace for his first 30-win season, but an injury stopped him in his tracks

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The stop-gap to Carter Hart, the one, the only, Brian Elliott. It was July 1st of last year when it was announced that the Flyers had signed Elliott to a two-year contract and that they would seemingly be going the tandem route with him and Michal Neuvirth in net. Elliott did his share of the workload, playing in just over half of the team’s games this season, and was clearly the Flyers’ go-to goaltender.

Elliott, 33, had plenty of success in the regular season as a member of the St. Louis Blues, but was coming off a relatively disappointing season with the Calgary Flames, a season that ended with them being swept in round one of the playoffs. He’s garnered a bit of a reputation as a poor playoff performer, despite posting a respectable .917 save percentage in the playoffs as a member of the Blues, and his first season in Philadelphia certainly won’t help make that narrative go away.

By The Numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Save Percentage Goals Against Average Record
Games Played Save Percentage Goals Against Average Record
43 0.909 2.66 23-11-7

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here talking about the playoffs, let’s rewind to the beginning. It was already evident by November that Elliott had won the starting job when he started 9 of the team’s 13 games that month, and even played in a 10th game when he made an appearance in relief, however that was nothing compared to his December. In fact, if you go back and watch any Flyers game in December, he would be the only goaltender that you’d see. That’s right, December began what would be 16 straight starts for Elliott, the longest consecutive games streak in his career, and it had him on pace to set a new career high in games played, which he last set in the 2009-10 season with 55. That, of course, wouldn’t happen as Elliott suffered an injury on February 10th during a shootout against the Arizona Coyotes and missed close to two months of game action.

When healthy, Elliott performed better at 5-on-5 than he did on the penalty kill relative to the rest of the league, much like just about every Flyers’ goaltender in the past, I don’t know, five seasons. His save percentage of 93.11% at 5-on-5 ranked 17th among goaltenders that played in at least 20 games this season, and his +0.6% delta save percentage (the difference between a goaltender’s actual save percentage and their expected save percentage based on shot quality) was top-20 as well. However, when the Flyers were down a man it wasn’t so pretty. His 4-on-5 save percentage of 81.02% (-5.97% delta) put him right at the bottom of the league. Needless to say that he’s probably not the guy to blame for his poor numbers on the penalty kill given the past success, or lack thereof, of previous Flyers’ netminders.

The plan was to talk about the playoffs here, but there’s really not much to say. Elliott had just returned, a tiny bit ahead of schedule, from core muscle surgery and certainly didn’t look his best; his save percentage of a mere 85.57% and goals against average of 4.74 reflect that. It was four games, he missed two months just prior, and the Flyers as a team were simply outclassed by the Penguins. That’s not a recipe that will result in positive statistics for any goaltender.

Three Burning Questions

1. Did Elliott live up to our expectations this season?

I’d say he did, yeah. Had he stayed healthy I think he would have actually surpassed expectations, solely on the amount of games he would have played. He wasn’t the best in the league, but nobody expected that. I think he was pretty average and that’s the type of season that most of us envisioned from him. Good, not great.

2. What do we expect from Elliott next season?

More of the same. He’ll likely be the Flyers’ starting goaltender again next season, and with no change behind the bench (hint, hint) he will probably continue to post average-to-above average numbers at 5-on-5 while falling behind the rest of the league on the penalty kill.

We can also expect another 40+ starts from Elliott next season, splitting time with either Neuvirth, Alex Lyon, or another goaltender that’s not currently on the Flyers’ roster.

3. What would we like to see Elliott improve on?

Stop more pucks! No, I mean, well, yes, stop more pucks. It’d be a small miracle if he could find a way to improve his numbers on the penalty kill, but that is the area of the game where he struggled the most last season. Staying healthy would be a bonus as well, but some would argue he was overused in the beginning of the season and the Flyers were playing with fire. Nevertheless, Elliott will likely be the same player he was last season - and that’s fine.

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