Alain Vigneault expressed embarrassment after watching his team lose 6-1 to the Sabres on Monday night, but the Flyers were able to get themselves back up off the mat for another round just one day later. Philly bounced back in a dominant 3-0 win that sent the team back to the top of the newly re-aligned East division. That may not have been possible without Brian Elliott.
‘Moose’ ended up making 40 saves (a new career-high in a shutout) on the night in what was to be his 41st career shutout. The last time he saved anywhere close to that mark in a shutout was back in 2016. He may be 35-years-old, but Elliott rolled back the years on Tuesday. In fact, his 40 saves were the most by a Flyers goaltender in a shutout since 2014, tying for the fifth-most saves during a shutout in team history.
This has become somewhat of a trend for Buffalo. Elliott now has a 14-2-2 record against them through 19 games.
Perhaps the demolition job bestowed upon the team on Monday had a silver lining after all. Elliott was able to get some valuable minutes after the Flyers pulled Carter Hart from the game, conceding two, and sharpening his senses and ensuring he wasn’t going into his first start with a ton of rust to shake off. That proved to be the right decision.
“I think it is nice to have a little playing time under the belt before you get your first start.” Elliott told reporters after shutout #41. “It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played, the first game of the year you always want to start off on a good note. I think it was good to get in there. Last night was not what we wanted to put on the ice as a team. I thought the response tonight was really good.”
Elliott saw action almost immediately and settled into the game just a quick. Jeff Skinner had a pair of huge opportunities early on that were denied by the veteran.
The Sabres were unlucky not to score. Colin Miller drilled a shot into the crossbar and Victor Olofsson, who had caused Philadelphia plenty of problems on Monday, clanged the post shortly after. But as for the other 38 shots, the Sabres had no answer for the quick reactions and soft pads of Brian Elliott.
“Brian’s been excellent throughout this start of training camp.” Alain Vingeault said after the game. “He’s been working really hard. This was maybe the first time in the last couple years where he was healthy and able to train and work out. He’s come focused. He’s come ready to play and help us win games. That’s what we need from both our goaltenders.”
The relationship between Carter Hart and Brian Elliott has long-been regarded as strong and it played a large part in Moose’s return this past offseason. The stability in net was one of the biggest catalysts behind the Flyers’ surge in form last year. Finally, the carousel had stopped spinning and the team found that they could hang their hats on Elliott to step in and be the ever-reliable backup behind one of the league’s brightest talents. That statement rings even truer after yesterday’s game.
After a slightly down year by his standards where he was only able to muster a .899% save percentage despite going 16-7-4, Elliott returned to Philadelphia for a fourth season, mentoring Hart and providing a sense of security at the crease for a young and growing team.
“We know what we are going to get.” Travis Konecny explained after yet another red-hot game of his own. “That’s the benefit of having two solid goalies and we knew that the effort like he said yesterday wasn’t there for the team. We know that Moose competes when he’s in there and he’s going to give us the best chance. He did exactly what we thought, and it kept us in the game. It’s nice to see that. Obviously, Moose has a lot of games under his belt and has a lot of experiences. We need those big games out of him and he’s there to do it for us.”
The presence of Elliott clearly goes beyond save percentages and win-loss records for the Flyers. His leadership and experience is invaluable to his teammates and as this core continues to flourish, they’ll be leaning on Elliott to keep the ship steady through the storms they’re bound to face.