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2020-21 Player Review: Brian Elliott was a good soldier once again

The veteran goalie was, again, pressed into more action than him or the Flyers would have liked — and the results backed it up.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Just about nothing went right for the Flyers in terms of goaltending in 2020-21, but Brian Elliott provided dependable veteran presence despite albeit less-than-stellar results.

And in a massive — and unexpected — surprise, Elliott ended up logging the most games and starts of any Flyers goalie last season. The 36-year-old was pressed into more duty than expected as Carter Hart struggled mightily in his third season of NHL action.

Hart’s numbers weren’t pretty, and playing behind a Flyers defense that couldn’t keep it together for large stretches of the season didn’t help either. Those results took a toll on the young Hart and forced the veteran Elliott to shoulder another heavy workload given his age and health history.

Thankfully for the Flyers, Elliott was durable in 2020-21 although he didn’t fare much better than Hart in terms of numbers as the team posted a league-worst save percentage. Staying healthy at least allowed the Flyers to give Hart extra time when it was needed — and before he got hurt — in order to try and right the ship. Ultimately, the ship was never righted, but Elliott was reliable and a good soldier in terms of taking on a much larger workload than he ever expected going into the season.

The good news for Elliott is that he’s off to Tampa to play his age-36 season behind the Lightning’s deep defense and perennial Vezina Trophy contender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s a model of durability himself. Elliott can ride off into the sunset of his NHL career likely working a modest 15 or so games, unless his luck is terrible again.

By The Numbers

This section isn’t going to be any fun for either Elliott or Hart given the teams’ league-worst goaltending numbers.

The best — albeit in a dumb class — in terms of metrics was actually Alex Lyon, who posted the best save percentage of the three goalies to play with an .893 save percentage. His goals-against was bloated due to his lack of ice time, but that’s never a good sign when your AHL goaltender essentially outplays your NHL tandem.

As for Elliott, his goals-against average was 3.06 over the course of 26 starts and 30 games. His .889% save percentage dipped well below the league average (.903%) and his goals saved above average was -14.0, which is quite bad. Hart’s GSAA was -22.6, so if you’re looking for reasons the Flyers missed the playoffs: there’s a couple.

Goalies Regular Season Table
Goalie Stats
1 Brian Elliott 35 30 26 15 9 2 82 738 656 .889 3.06 2 1608 12 .462 8 121 -14.0 3.36 2.8
2 Carter Hart 22 27 25 9 11 5 89 721 632 .877 3.67 1 1456 9 .360 8 134 -22.6 4.04 1.8
3 Alex Lyon 28 6 5 1 3 1 18 169 151 .893 3.33 0 324 2 .400 2 3.70 0.7
Team Total 56 25 23 8 189 1628 1439 .884 3.35 3 3388 23 .411 18 126 -39.0 3.68 5.3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/15/2021.

Yeah not pretty in the least — and it’s not like Elliott and friends struggled on special teams as their 5-on-5 metrics were all towards or at the bottom of the league as well. Meaning that even the Flyers’ second-worst penalty kill didn’t even drag down the goaltending all that much, it was just that bad.

Enough with looking at the statistics because Elliott simply wasn’t very good when he played, and frankly he played far too much because Hart couldn’t keep it together and the Flyers were essentially out of options.

One cool note about looking up these stats is that newcomer Martin Jones also shows up near the bottom of just about every major goalie category from a year ago as well. Here’s to hoping getting out of the lifeless pit that is the San Jose Sharks will help.

Three Questions

Did they live up to our expectations?

We’d say that Elliott provided just about what we expected given where he is in terms of his career and what the Flyers were like in front of him. Nobody was expecting the Flyers to be forced into a near 50-50 split in goaltending after Hart provided them above-average work since being called up in the middle of the 2018-19 campaign.

What do we/can we expect next season?

We can expect Elliott to enjoy Florida weather and playing behind a competent NHL defense in his handful of games as Tampa deploys their latest attempt at going cheap behind their horse Vasilevskiy.

How would you grade their 2020-21 season?

Overall given all the factors that played in, it’s hard to blame Elliott for the most part. Though he played around the same amount of games as he did the season prior, he wasn’t expected to handle that workload behind Hart, and he certainly wasn’t playing behind the same defense that the Flyers iced in 2019-20 with Matt Niskanen anchoring a better-than-expected group. We’d give Elliott a C+ for his work this season, because he’s a good dude and didn’t deserve to be left out to dry so often.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, and Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise noted.