Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Brian Elliott?

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Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Brian Elliott?

It was April 11, Game 1 of the Flyers-Penguins first-round playoff series.

Brian Elliott's life had changed drastically — and quickly.

Here was Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel flying at him from all angles.

About a month ago …

"I couldn't put on my socks or tie my shoes," Elliott said.

"It was gloomy there for a little bit when you're reaching down and you can't even put your sock on to walk out the door."

Elliott had gone 53 days without playing an NHL game because of core muscle surgery he underwent Feb. 13. Then, after just two regular-season outings in which he struggled and was hardly challenged, Elliott was tasked with slowing down the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

It didn't go well.

The 33-year-old went 1-3-0 with a 4.74 goals-against average and .856 save percentage. He was yanked twice and did not finish the series as Michal Neuvirth took over for Games 5 and 6 — a victory and a season-ending loss.

All of which begged the question: was Elliott 100 percent or was his return premature?

"It's hard to put a percentage on it, but I definitely came back a little early … crawling on the table after the games," Elliott said last Wednesday from the team's dressing room at Flyers Skate Zone. "You're just trying to push through it. I had a couple practices before getting back into games and you're kind of in between trying to push yourself to get back into form and also taking care of your body so you're not too sore to skate the next day. It was just hard to manage it a little bit, and I'm still dealing with issues as far as the injury is concerned."

The Flyers needed all 82 regular-season games to clinch a playoff berth. They were in desperate need of their No. 1 goalie — or at least just one of the two that opened the regular season on the roster. While Elliott was healthy enough to play, he opened up about some of the issues that may have hampered his performance.

"It's tough, but at the end of the day you have to go out there and play to tear up some of the scar tissue stuff because you can only massage that stuff out of there before you've got to just tear it up the way you play," he said. "The last couple games, I'm glad they kept it under 20 shots because I don't think I could do any more than what I had. It got better every day just because of that and you have to tear that stuff up to get full range of motion again. I'm confident that it will get back to normal, but it definitely wasn't normal."

Elliott was unsure if he would need a follow-up procedure to help clean out some of the remaining issues and expedite his recovery. Speaking a day after the goaltender, general manager Ron Hextall did not know yet either.

Regardless, Elliott expects to be 100 percent come training camp. Prior to his injury, he went 15-5-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage since Dec. 4, a span of 22 games.

"I'm comfortable where we are as an organization with our goaltending," Hextall said. "Brian Elliott played extremely well for us until he got hurt there.

"We've got our kids coming. We've got the kids up in Lehigh. We feel very comfortable with where we are at; in saying that, we need some growth, too." 

And that leads to the biggest question of can Elliott — and Neuvirth (see story) — be reliable enough in net during 2018-19, a year with much more on the line (see story)?

In the final season of his two-year contract, Elliott may not be the future, but he's here while the team is starting to reach its own.

That makes him as important as anybody.

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

The Flyers lost all three games this week and ended a five-game homestand a mediocre 2-2-1. Some observations:

• James van Riemsdyk put up a goal and two assists in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning. In his second game back from injury, the Flyers scored three power-play goals, matching their total from Oct. 13 to Nov. 16, which spanned 43 opportunities.

Think he's a difference-maker?

However, what is truly worrisome is that a glaring concern entering the 2018-19 season was on full display Saturday. We knew the Flyers could score. This team has talent, the power play won't be this bad, pucks will be put in the net.

But can the Flyers stop teams?

With the situation in net and the ongoing penalty-kill woes, the Flyers can score all they want — it might not make a difference.

- Hall

• I didn't think Calvin Pickard played bad Saturday against the Lightning. I believe he was the victim of circumstance.

The Lightning's second goal was leaky but the rest? Ivan Provorov played soft and was outmuscled by Brayden Point, who is two inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter, on the third goal. Wayne Simmonds lost his man on the overtime winner. The other two were PPGs.

Still, Pickard finished with a .769 save percentage. His last start wasn't much better — .778 save percentage. He has a .852 save percentage in eight games. Pickard wasn't bad against Tampa, but the bottom line is, you need your goalie to makes saves and Pickard hasn't shown he's capable of doing it on a consistent basis.

With Brian Elliott out at least two weeks, the Flyers gave Pickard first swing Saturday. It's time to end this experiment. Alex Lyon deserves an opportunity.

- Dougherty

• The Flyers outshot their opponent in each of the three losses during the week.

Overall, they outshot the opposition 105-83 but were outscored 11-6.

For some context, this past week the Maple Leafs registered 104 shots and allowed 107 in three games but went 3-0-0 and outscored the competition 12-6.

It makes you wonder — are the Flyers getting the quality shots you need on a consistent basis to win games?

"We did give up some shots, but they weren’t scoring chances," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the Flyers outshot Tampa 45-26, "so you can shoot a lot of pucks and it’s going to look good on the stat line, but if they’re not quality chances, it’s two-fold."

The Flyers have eight losses when they outshoot an opponent, which is tied for most in the NHL.
- Hall

• Through 20 games, the Flyers are 9-9-2. This was expected to be a season this team takes a step forward and a quarter of the way in, the Flyers are again average at best with huge, gaping deficiencies. Team defense remains a problem, the goaltending situation has been a total miscalculation by general manager Ron Hextall and the penalty kill has been a disaster.

The Flyers ended this week tying a season high three-game losing streak and while they did so by showing fight — something they didn't do three weeks ago — there needs to be accountability. There's a reason opposing players no longer fear Wells Fargo Center. The fans have been patient than ever but patience grows tired and it's reaching its tipping point.

Just look at the penalty kill — which allowed four power-play goals last week. It's been brutal for the past four seasons and it's been worse than ever. Yet, there's been no change in structure or coach, no accountability. Why?

- Dougherty

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This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

Three weeks ago, this would not have happened. In fact, we have hard evidence to back this up. The Flyers were gut-punched by the Islanders on Oct. 27 at the Wells Fargo Center and laid down. The end result was a barbarous 6-1 defeat that created social media angst among fans.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers’ will was tested again. But this time, the outcome showed us just how far they’ve come since that depressing October Saturday three weeks ago. If there’s such a thing as a character loss, the Flyers’ 6-5 overtime defeat to the Lightning is the face of it (see observations).

This had the making of a story we’ve written before, one in which the Flyers face adversity on home ice and crumble. The Flyers were behind 5-1 in the third period after Tampa capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play for two goals in 51 seconds. Three weeks ago, that’s game, set, match.

Instead, the Flyers rung off four goals in 6:04 to force OT. It’s the ninth time in league history that a team erased a four-goal deficit in a game’s final 10 minutes.

“We showed some good character,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Any time you can get a point when you’re down four goals in the third period, I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. … 

“You want to have good responses. We had some pretty good process-related stuff as far as carrying the play, but we’re paid here and we’re here to get results, so it’s not good enough.”

van Riemsdyk, in his second game back from a knee injury, was a major part of the Flyers’ comeback. He snapped the team’s 0-for-15 power-play drought in the second period with his first goal of the season and had assists on the goal that began the comeback and completed it.

There is a lot to unpack after Saturday. The loss capped off a five-game homestand that began promising but ended leaving much more to be desired — 2-2-1. The Flyers have now lost three straight, tying their season-high losing streak that came after the Islanders loss on Oct. 27. The penalty kill had another merciless effort, allowing three more power-play goals. The Flyers have now allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals and the PK ranks 30th at 68.6 percent.

Claude Giroux became just the fourth player in franchise history to reach 700 points with a two-assist game, which put his total up to 701 (see story). He also moved into a tie with Brian Propp for second all-time in team history with 480 helpers. The Flyers dominated just about every play-driving metric and outshot the Lightning, 45-26. Their power play awoke with three goals.

“It’s hard. We want to take a lot of positives out of that,” said Travis Konecny, who had his fourth career two-goal game. “It shows what we have in the locker room. It’s just tough to look at it that way. (Head coach Dave Hakstol) comes in between the second and third and says we’re actually playing a good game, it’s just we got to get our bounces and stick together.”

Stuck together they did, and if we want to take anything away from Saturday’s OTL, it’s that. That didn’t happen three weeks ago.

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