2020-21 NHL Philadelphia Flyers player review: Brian Elliott was once again a good soldier
Almost nothing has gone well for the Flyers in terms of goaltending in 2020-21, but Brian Elliott provided a reliable veteran presence despite less than stellar results.
And in a massive – and unexpected – surprise, Elliott ended up registering the most games and starts of any Flyers goaltender last season. The 36-year-old was forced to do more homework than expected as Carter Hart struggled powerfully in his third season in the NHL.
Hart’s numbers weren’t pretty, and playing behind a Flyers defense that couldn’t keep him together for long stretches of the season didn’t help either. These results took a toll on young Hart and forced veteran Elliott to take on another heavy workload given his age and health history.
Fortunately for the Flyers, Elliott was durable in 2020-21 although he didn’t fare much better than Hart in terms of numbers, with the team posting the worst save percentage in the league. Staying healthy at least allowed the Flyers to give Hart more time when needed – and before he got injured – to try to right the ship. In the end, the ship was never righted, but Elliott was reliable and a good soldier in terms of a much bigger workload than he had anticipated at the start of the season.
The good news for Elliott is that he’s heading to Tampa to play his season at the age of 36 behind the Lightning’s deep defense and perennial Vezina Trophy contender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who himself is a model of sustainability. Elliott can jump into the sunset of his NHL career, probably working a modest fifteen games, unless his luck is terrible again.
By the numbers
This section won’t be fun for Elliott or Hart given the teams’ worst numbers of goaltenders.
The best – albeit in a stupid class – in terms of metrics was actually Alex Lyon, who posted the best save percentage of the three goalies to play with a 0.893 save percentage. His goals against were inflated due to his lack of ice time, but it’s never a good sign when your AHL goalie is essentially outperforming your NHL tandem.
As for Elliott, his goals against average was 3.06 in 26 starts and 30 games. His 0.889% save percentage fell well below the league average (0.903%) and his above-average goals were -14.0, which is pretty bad. Hart’s GSAA was -22.6, so if you’re looking for reasons the Flyers missed the playoffs: there are a few.
Yeah, not pretty at all – and it’s not like Elliott and his friends struggled on special teams as their 5v5 metrics were all towards or down the league as well. Which means even the Flyers’ second worst penalty kill didn’t even weigh on the goaltenders, it was just so bad.
Enough of looking at the stats because Elliott just wasn’t that good when he played, and frankly he was playing way too much because Hart couldn’t hold on and the Flyers were basically running out of options.
An interesting note about researching those stats is that newcomer Martin Jones also appears near the bottom of almost every major goalie category from a year ago as well. Hopefully getting out of the lifeless pit that is the San Jose Sharks will help.
Did they live up to our expectations?
We would say Elliott delivered pretty much what we expected given where he is in terms of career and what the Flyers looked like ahead of him. No one expected the Flyers to be forced into a nearly 50-50 split among goalkeepers after Hart gave them an above-average job since being called up in the middle of the campaign 2018-19.
What can / can we expect next season?
Elliott can be expected to take advantage of the Florida weather and play behind a competent NHL defense in his handful of games as Tampa deploys his latest attempt to get cheap behind his horse Vasilevskiy.
How would you rate their 2020-21 season?
Overall, given all the factors that played out, it’s hard to blame Elliott for the most part. Although he played roughly the same number of games as the previous season, he wasn’t expected to handle that workload behind Hart, and he certainly wasn’t playing behind the same defense as the Flyers iced in 2019-2020 with Matt Niskanen. anchoring of a group better than expected. We would give Elliott a C + for his job this season, because he’s a good guy and didn’t deserve to be left to dry so often.
All statistics via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving-Hockey, unless otherwise noted.