Brian Elliott had every reason to celebrate Monday morning. He had just backstopped the Flyers to a 5-0, playoff-clinching shutout win just two days earlier, and it just happened to be his 33rd birthday.
As he began his day and felt the excitement surrounding a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Elliott couldn’t help but reflect on the tragic bus crash that killed 15 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.
“I woke up this morning with all of the news coming out of Saskatchewan,” Elliott said. “We’ve all been those kids — riding the bus and having those dreams to go on and play. We’re living our dream and those kids don’t get to fulfill their dreams. We have to treat it as a privilege. I think that’s how I want to go into this series, knowing that we fulfilled our dreams to make it to the NHL, and we all have one big dream to get that Cup.”
Chasing that elusive Cup has been no easy task for Elliott. His journey has spanned 11 NHL seasons with four different clubs.
He was the go-to guy in Calgary, but that didn’t go well at all. In fact, it was disastrous. Last season, the Ducks put out the Flames in four straight as Elliott was pulled in Game 4, just five and a half minutes into the game.
When Elliott takes the ice at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night for Game 1, he’ll be looking to snap a seven-game postseason losing streak dating back to his days with St. Louis.
None of which really matters to the Flyers' No. 1 netminder considering his Flyers teammates probably have no recollection of what he’s done prior to coming to Philly.
“Every season is new. I don’t think it’s about redeeming,” Elliott said. “I’ve gotten close with these guys pretty quick and counting on each other day in and day out. That’s what’s fun about it is to have each other’s backs, and try and come up big for each other. That’s the biggest thing. It’s not a personal thing out there. It’s for everybody and the team. I know it sounds cliché, but that’s what’s good about our sport is that we go out there and fight for each other.”
Take everything you can recall about Ilya Bryzgalov, who was the last Flyers goaltender to win a playoff series, and the character profile couldn’t be a more stark contrast.
Behind his calm, even-keel demeanor, Elliott doesn’t bring attention to himself. He thinks before speaking, provides a keen insight and his preference would be to run away from the spotlight, not towards it.
But this time of the year, it simply can’t be avoided. The Flyers' success, one way or the other, hinges on Elliott’s play between the pipes.
“You have to stay within yourself and not get caught up in thinking this is the last shot or the last opportunity,” Elliott said. “You have to treat it as another game. You definitely have to elevate your level because it's what everybody plays for. You’re going to get everybody’s A-game, and we better have ours.”