When the Calgary Flames traded a couple of picks for Brian Elliott, they probably thought they were getting a .930, 2.07 Goals-Against-Average (GAA) goalie from St. Louis. After conceding ten goals in two games, Elliott is looking at a .818 SV% and 5.08 GAA. Unsurprisingly, Chad Johnson started started the next two games, including the Flames’ win over the Buffalo Sabres.
So what’s going on? After sharing goaltending duties with Jake Allen in St. Louis, Elliott was traded at the draft for a 2016 second round pick and a conditional 2018 third round pick. Now Elliott’s ambition to be the number one goalie in Calgary looks to be in jeopardy.
Why is this? Is Elliott a bad goalie? In five seasons in St. Louis Elliot never posted a GAA higher than 2.28 and SV% lower than .907. He’s no Carey Price, but Elliott has put up consistently good numbers over the past few seasons. This may in part be down to playing fewer games than an out-and-out number one goalie, but Elliott was called on for most of the Blues’ playoff campaign after Allen was hurt. Playing over a thousand playoff minutes and still putting up good numbers doesn’t happen by accident. The Flames aren’t stupid either, picking up the 2012 William M Jennings trophy winner looked like shrewd bit of business.
If Elliott is a capable goalie, what else could be causing this early dip? Could it be that he’s been up against elite forwards or the victim of unlucky bounces? The Flames season opener was against the Edmonton Oilers in their new house, and it would unfair to say that Elliott was responsible for the team’s 7-4 loss. Connor McDavid scored twice, once in open play and once from a penalty shot. The rest of the goals came from a mix of good shooting and bad defending.
Calgary’s home opener was also against the Oilers, and the result went the same way. There may be one or two goals that Elliott would like to have had back, but all in, the Oilers played well and the Flames didn’t. As soon as the Oiler’s found that Achilles heel (about 18 inches off the ice, just above Elliot’s pads) the Flames had no comeback.
The Flames’ blue line has a lot to answer for, the Oilers were strong on the breakaway and Elliott often found himself one-on-one with the opposition. When defending in their own zone, the Flames regularly left forwards unmarked and the lack of pressure led to many shooting opportunities. Defensive zone confusion was the Flames’ downfall. But don’t let that take away from what was also an impressive performance by an Edmonton Oilers team who quickly found, then exploited the Flames’ weakness over both games.
The jury is still out on whether or not Elliott has what it takes to become the Flames’ starting goalie, a position he hasn’t been able to attain elsewhere. But whatever problems Elliott may have, they pale in comparison to the defensive issues that the Oilers were able to exploit. Albeit with the help of their superstar captain.
What do you think?
For a little extra opinion, we asked the great people of Twitter for their thoughts:
Brian Elliot conceded 10 goals in two games; is he:
— The 4th Line Podcast (@The4thLinePod) October 19, 2016
The people have spoken, and the people are undecided. That’s fair enough, Elliott has only played two games and as the season progresses the defense will tighten up. Failing that; there’s always Chad Johnson. Let us know what you think by commenting below or joining in the conversation on Twitter.