Here we are, eleven games into the season, and fans are already calling for heads. MacDonald, Weise, and Manning. No player is exempt from the ire of the Flyer fan, and that’s just fine. Fans are allowed to be upset with the performance of a player or two. Flyers fans have been furious with MacDonald for a few years now. Manning has drawn a lot of keyboard warrior’s frustrations recently because he is the cog that is preventing younger defensemen from making the leap to the NHL. Dale Weise, well, is Dale Weise.
Are we Flyers fans giving a certain someone a pass though? Are we overlooking the fact that to this point in the season, a little more than one eighth of the way through, Brian Elliott isn’t really looking that good? Yes it is very early to start anointing him a failure, but look at the numbers. He may be 5-2-0 in the seven games he has played, but his save percentage is poor, and he is allowing an average of slightly over three goals per game.
Yes, he was supposed to be the complement to Michael Neuvirth, but Neuvy has only played five game to this point, and has completely outplayed Brian Elliott. Neuvy has posted a record of 1-3-0, worse than Elliott, but his save percentage is .925, much better than that of Elliott’s. His goals against, 2.30, much better than Elliott once again.
Sure, the only thing that matter is wins and losses, but what these stats show, honestly, is that Elliott gets the goal support that Neuvirth does not. In one of his two losses, the Flyers still managed to score five goals with Elliott in net. The other game, they still mustered two goals. Neuvy, on the other hand, has endured two performances in which the offense has been stymied by the opposing team. There’s no conspiracy, nobody is out to sabotage a goaltender, that just is how it is at this point.
Another contributing factor to both goaltenders could be the defense. Just kidding, it’s definitely the defense. It definitely does not help when you have two rookies, a sophomore, and a third year player on the blueline. Yes, having Hagg, Sanheim, Provorov, and Gostisbehere backing up the offense is exactly what us fans wanted. We have been pushing for this youth movement to begin for quite some time now. Things will get better, but until they do, they aren’t offering much help to the goalie behind them. Honestly, and this may not sit well with most of you, the goalies’ favorite defenseman is probably MacDonald because of the amount of shots he blocks in front.
With all that being said, the real question is whether or not it is too soon to give up on Brian Elliott. It’s very early, and honestly too early to tell, but hopefully these stats will paint a clearer picture. In his first few years in the league, the first month of each season, he posted a save percentage of .892, .894, and .942 in his first month of the season in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively. In 2015, the first month he posted a .908 save percentage, and in 2016, it was a .898. Historically, Elliott has started slow.
Elliott always seems to warm up after a few months of play, and he has proven that when splitting time in net as part of a platoon, he can thrive and put up outstanding numbers. Maybe it’s the slow start, maybe it’s adjusting to his new surroundings, maybe he is actually on the decline. There are too many things to account his lack of production to at this point. However, he’s played only 7 games in a Flyers sweater, let’s not deem the guy a failure just yet.
Neuvy and Elliott will start splitting time a little more evenly here, and when they do, I believe that Elliott will start improving those numbers steadily. Right now he is being ridden as the number one guy in the system, and he has proven that he doesn’t exactly thrive when put into that position. When you put him into a 1A/1B system, with no true number one goalie, that is when he is at his best. Give Neuvy a few more games, because we all know that he can get on a roll. Ride the hot hand if it’s hot, and when it isn’t any more, give the net to Elliott and let him do his thing.
Elliott is going to come around, and if he doesn’t he has, at the very least, proven that he can get the job done with the goal support of his offense. He will do just enough to win those close games, but eventually that won’t be enough, and he will need to start shining. When that time comes, expect Elliott to shine bright, and expect the Flyers to win games because of their goalie, and not just their prolific-at-times offense.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports