With the 2019-20 NHL regular season likely over, we can fully evaluate individual players from the Philadelphia Flyers.
We’re only at the 69-game mark of the Philadelphia Flyers‘ schedule, but it certainly seems highly likely that the league’s current suspension will extend at least long enough to cancel the remainder of the regular season. Hopefully we have some Stanley Cup Playoff hockey after that, but either way, we can hand out some final marks on the season at this point for individual players.
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First up among the Flyers players we’ll be looking at: netminder Brian Elliott.
Being a backup goaltender is a strange proposition. Your level of importance fluctuates from least important player on the team to most important in the blink of an eye. And so, as high as people might have been on Carter Hart entering the 2019-20 season, there always seemed to be a level of apprehension about Elliott backing him up. After all, in his first two seasons with the Flyers, Elliott had delivered some disappointing results and had dealt with enough injuries to make him a risky fallback option.
This year hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination, but Elliott has seemingly done enough to justify the Flyers’ decision to retain him rather than Cam Talbot or another veteran goaltender to pair with Hart.
Talbot, who signed with the Calgary Flames, admittedly has much better numbers than Elliott this year, although it’s impossible to know if that success would have translated to the Flyers if they had re-signed him. Still, Elliott has given the Flyers what they needed in his 31 games played this year (27 starts), and he’s also stayed healthy all year. That’s no small feat for the 34-year old goaltender, and he should be given some credit for it. Coach Alain Vigneault, who has a real feel for this club, has also used him just the right amount.
Elliott’s best work came in January and February, when he had to carry the load while Hart was on the shelf with an injury. Of the nine games during Hart’s absence, Elliott started seven of them, going 5-2 with a pair of shutouts. It very well could have been the turning point that sent the season spiraling, but Elliott’s calm and consistent play ensured that the Flyers didn’t miss a beat.
When you look at his overall numbers, they’re not inspiring. Elliott looks like he’ll finish this regular season sporting an .899 save percentage and a 2.87 Goals Against Average with the two aforementioned shutouts. But he does have a tidy 16-7-4 record, though the improved play of the team in front of him this year is a large reason for that mark.
His season seems to be a paradox. His record is probably better than he deserves, but at the same time, his raw numbers don’t reflect the competent play that he’s largely delivered. Add it all up, and Elliott deserves a fair grade.