Updated: 10:03 p.m.
The fans at Lincoln Financial Field have developed a real fondness for the backup.
Except for the one they’ll see Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon made the startling announcement following Friday’s practice that Brian Elliott will be the Flyers' starting goaltender for Saturday night’s Stadium Series game against the Penguins.
Gordon spent about three-and-a-half minutes explaining his decision — one that will most certainly elicit the “boo birds” who were expecting 20-year-old Carter Hart.
“We talked as a staff this morning and again this afternoon," Gordon said, "and I looked at it from the perspective that if this was just another game, if it wasn’t an outdoor game, would you be playing (Hart) that third game in a row? I think the biggest thing is if this game was at any other time, we would have gone back to who the other goalie was.”
Many of the 70,000-plus who are planning on braving the cold weather and possibly rainy conditions purchased tickets on the assumption that Hart would be in net, and you could sense from listening to Gordon that he had thought about this decision from every angle and the optics of how this might appear.
Hart had a special mask created with Nick Foles on one side and Carson Wentz on the other, along with pads, a blocker and a glove specially tailored for this one outdoor game.
“The easy decision would be to pick Carter," Gordon said. "It really bothered me to make the final decision as to not play him. Two weeks ago that was looking like it was going to be the decision. I said to Carter, ‘This is gonna hurt,' but the biggest thing is this is our biggest game of the year, but as far as lineup decision, it’s what’s best for the team.”
The rookie had surrendered three goals in roughly the first ten minutes in each of his past two starts, and had been pulled in favor of Elliott, who has surprisingly done a solid job in relief. Tuesday’s game against the Lightning was Elliott’s first NHL action in three months as he proceeded to stop 22 of 23 shots.
However, the Flyers wouldn’t be within striking range of the playoffs if it wasn’t for some outstanding goaltending from Hart, who primarily carried the team through an eight-game winning streak.
Gordon’s move is very reminiscent of Peter Laviolette’s decision to go with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky over Ilya Bryzgalov in the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.
That’s when Bryzgalov took it upon himself to disclose Laviolette’s decision to the media against the wishes of his head coach.
Right now, the Flyers desperately need two points to stay in the playoff chase, and if they don’t receive a solid outing from Elliott and a much-needed two points, this decision will be one that will be not-so-fondly remembered for the remainder of the season.
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