Veteran goaltender Brian “Moose” Elliott has been a warrior during his four years with the Flyers, battling hard, compiling a 63-36-14 record, and serving as a mentor to Carter Hart.
But with Hart either struggling or injured for the last eight weeks, Elliott’s workload has increased even more than expected in the condensed season, and the results have not been good.
In short, Elliott, 36, plays much better when he is rested. He figured to be a fresh goaltender if used more sparingly this season as Hart’s backup.
As it has turned out, Elliott (26 games, 22 starts) has played almost as much as Hart (27 games, 25 starts).
Hart, who has a 3.67 GAA and .877 save percentage, regressed significantly, and there are questions about whether he will return to form next year.
And that has created questions about whether the Flyers will re-sign Elliott (2.98, .892), a pending unrestricted free agent.
The Flyers might opt to sign a more durable goaltender in case Hart struggles again next season.
In the season’s first two months, Elliott played well while his workload was low. In four games in January, he had a 2.22 GAA and a .932 save percentage. He also played in just four February games, and he was excellent (1.82, .929).
March and April have been a different story.
Used much more often, Elliott had a forgettable March (3.74, .847 in 11 games), and his April (2.95, .902 in seven games) has been up and down, including Tuesday’s 6-4 loss in New Jersey. It was Elliott’s sixth start in the last eight games.
“That’s the balance that is not easy to find,” coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday, referring to the right amount of playing time for Elliott. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to win every game. When Moose has been fresh, he’s been outstanding, and his record is good. When we play him a lot – I think this was his third game in seven [actually six] nights – it’s a little bit more difficult.”
The Flyers, you’ll recall, had the best points percentage in the East Division entering March.
Since then, they have only 11 wins in 31 games (11-16-4), have fallen into sixth place, and dropped out of the playoff race. In than span, they are 1-10 in games following a loss, getting outscored, 58-25, in those 11 matchups.
There have been lots of factors for the tumble. The team’s poor overall defense, the special teams’ struggles, and the dried-up offense have contributed. Ditto the inconsistency of Elliott and, to a greater extent, Hart.
The Flyers are counting on the ultra-promising Hart, 22, who has missed the last six games with a mild knee sprain, having a bounce-back season in 2021-22.
As insurance, they might decide to sign a younger, more durable goalie to complement him. Among the potential unrestricted free-agent goalies are Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark (2.63 GAA, .917 save percentage), 27; Toronto’s Frederik Andersen (2.91, .897), 31; Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer (2.00, .920), 29; Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier (3.02, .912), 32; and Tampa Bay’s Anders Nilsson, 31, who has missed the season because of post-concussion syndrome.
The Flyers play in New Jersey again Thursday. ... A goal credited Tuesday to Sean Couturier was switched Wednesday and given to Travis Sanheim as the NHL reviewed the video and determined the puck deflected off the defenseman. ... The Devils (10 games) joined Buffalo (18 games) as teams that ended long losing streaks this season against the Flyers. ... In his NHL debut Tuesday, Egor “Big Z” Zamula had five shot attempts (three on goal) and was plus-1 while playing 19 minutes, 19 seconds and having Sanheim as his partner. ... Couturier and Jake Voracek have four-game point streaks. ... Several Flyers are in long scoring droughts, including Scott Laughton (no goals in last 25 games), Kevin Hayes (no goals in last 15 games), Nolan Patrick (one goal in last 20 games), Joel Farabee (one goal in last 18 games), and Travis Konecny (two goals in last 25 games). ... The Flyers have allowed the first goal in 17 of the last 19 games.