Flyers

In familiar situation, Brian Elliott welcomes Flyers' platoon with Michal Neuvirth

On Saturday afternoon, Brian Elliott said all the right things. He wanted to be a Flyer because he believes they’re on the brink of doing something special and wanted to be a part of it.
 
Elliott recalled the Flyers’ 10-game winning streak last season as a sign that there is untapped potential in Philadelphia. He likes the Flyers’ aggressive brand.
 
There was also something else in play.
 
“When a guy like [Flyers general manager] Ron Hextall calls you and says he’s liked you for a long time and wanted to get me on his team, it’s pretty special,” Elliott said Saturday on a conference call.
 
“I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity.”
 
Elliott on Saturday officially signed a two-year contract reportedly for $5.5 million at a reasonable $2.75 million average annual value with the Flyers as free agency opened (see story).
 
The 32-year-old will partner with Michal Neuvirth as a tandem for the next two seasons. Both goalies are signed to two-year contracts, a sign the Flyers believe one of their highly touted goalie prospects — Carter Hart or Felix Sandstrom — could be ready in three years.
 
Hextall has a combined $5.25 million cap hit committed to his crease over the next two seasons, which is cheaper than what 16 teams have committed to just one netminder.
 
Platoons don't faze Elliott. The veteran has been a part of crowded creases quite often throughout his career. He split duties with Jaroslav Halak his first year in St. Louis in 2011-12. The next year, the Blues’ net featured three goalies: Elliott, Halak and Jake Allen.
 
In 2013-14, St. Louis began the year with Elliott and Halak but ended up trading Halak at the deadline for Ryan Miller. Then, Elliott split time with Allen his final two years with the Blues.
 
Even last season in Calgary, Elliott had to share the net with Chad Johnson.
 
“I’ve been in the same type of situation my whole career,” Elliott said. “It’s not something I shy away from or am concerned about. Obviously, want to play as many games as you can.
 
“You want to be the guy who can be counted on. If you’re playing well, it’s a league where you get rewarded. If you’re going to keep winning, you’re going to stay in the net.”
 
As for how he feels about teams needing a definite No. 1 goalie — a tune Steve Mason sung at the Flyers’ breakup day in April — Elliott doesn’t totally buy that theory.
 
Elliott pointed to the Penguins, who won their second straight Stanley Cup last season with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury as their goalies. Murray and Fleury combined to start 26 games, largely because of an injury to Murray prior to Pittsburgh’s first playoff game.
 
“For myself, I just try to keep working hard and eventually things turn in your favor,” Elliott said, “and you end up playing the bulk of the games. I want to come in and contribute as much as I can and be a guy who can be counted on game in and game out back there.”
 
When asked about Mason’s opinion on platoons, Elliott sidestepped the question, saying he didn’t know what exactly Mason said. Ironically, Mason pointed to Elliott’s situation with the Blues.
 
"Doesn't work," Mason said April 11. "And it's shown throughout the league, it doesn't work. Tampa got rid of their situation. St. Louis got rid of their situation. It's got nothing to do with Neuvy and I as people. It doesn't work for the goaltending position."
 
Mason was partially right about St. Louis. The Blues traded Elliott to the Flames at the 2016 NHL draft, but St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong sold it as a move to clear the way for the 26-year-old Allen.
 
Mason on Saturday signed a two-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets.
 
Elliott endured a rocky campaign with the Flames in 2016-17. He began the year as No. 1 but lost it to Johnson after a poor start. He eventually put things together and retook the No. 1 job. He finished with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 49 games.
 
Breaking down Elliott’s season into two 20-game periods and then a nine-game period, inconsistency screams. He had a 2.96 GAA and .889 save percentage his first 20 games, but over the next 20 games, he had a .931 save percentage and 2.00 GAA.
 
He finished the year with a 2.91 GAA and .903 save percentage in his final nine games. That bled into the playoffs, as he had a .880 save percentage as the Flames were swept by the Ducks in the first round.

“Everybody’s been the best goalie in the NHL one night and everybody’s been the worst,” Elliott said. “It’s how you respond to those situations. The details are so small, it's how you respond from your bad nights and how you react and come back.
 
“That's what you really learn from. It takes time and I think that's why for a goalie, it takes a little bit longer to get into your prime years because you have to go through those tough situations and battle through them to become mentally tough.”
 
By signing Elliott, it’s clear Hextall was not comfortable rolling with a tandem of Neuvirth and 23-year-old Anthony Stolarz next season. With a two-year deal, Hextall will have to revisit the goaltending situation again when Elliott and Neuvirth’s deals are up.
 
At that time, the kids should be ready. Perhaps either Elliott or Neuvirth will be the ones mentoring them when they arrive. That is a question for another day.
 
But what we know now, according to Elliott, the idea of mentoring never came up with Hextall. Not as if that would be a problem.
 
“Whether you’re mentoring someone or not, you’re there because you want to win and play hockey and what’s best for your career," Elliott said. “If you end up having an influence on somebody, that’s probably good too.”