Brian Elliott hasn’t been as bad as his numbers indicate

The Calgary Flames have not had a great start to their season. They have one victory and one shootout loss in five outings. What makes the season seem worse so far is that the much-ballyhooed acquisition of former St. Louis Blues starting goalie Brian Elliott hasn’t really paid off yet.

That said, Elliott’s numbers aren’t quite as bad as they seem.


Elliott is 0-3-0. He has captured zero points for the Flames. He has allowed 14 goals against overall and has a 4.72 goals against average, a .839 save percentage, and a .875 even strength save percentage.

Among goalies who’ve played two (or more) games this season, Elliott has a worse even strength save percentage of everybody except Louie Domingue, Jeff Zatkoff, Steve Mason, Cam Ward, Eddie Lack, Sergei Bobrovsky and Connor Hellebuyck. He’s tied with Ben Bishop and Frederik Andersen. In short, 29 goalies are better right now at even keel than Elliott.

It sounds bad, but let’s break down the goals against he’s given up game-by-game.


The Flames gave up 24 scoring chances against, 13 of which were considered “high-danger.”

  • Ugly Nicklas Grossmann outlet pass intercepted, Patrick Maroon tips in point shot for goal.
  • Grossmann caught up ice on a pinch, Oilers come back on odd-man rush. Tyler Pitlick scores.
  • Entire team caught on sloppy line change, Zack Kassian gets a breakaway.
  • Tired team gets caught on sloppy icing (a pass to nobody in particular that went the length of the ice); Monahan loses faceoff, Connor McDavid knocks in point shot that rebounded off end-boards. (Nobody had McDavid covered, either.)
  • Dennis Wideman hauls down McDavid, who scores on the ensuing penalty shot.
  • Deryk Engelland makes a sloppy clearing attempt late on a penalty kill, which the Oilers intercept. Jesse Puljujarvi, all alone, beats Elliott.

So that’s six goals: four directly related to individual players making mistakes and two directly related to team-wide sloppiness. Elliott probably wants the Puljujarvi goal back, as he got some of the puck and it trickled in, but Puljujarvi was still left all alone as the whole team began leaving the zone prior to the puck actually doing so.


The Flames gave up 23 scoring chances against, 15 of which were considered “high-danger.”

  • A point shot was blocked by the Oilers, the puck rebounded to McDavid and he scored on the breakaway.
  • At the end of a power-play by the Oilers, Elliott made the initial save but the PK couldn’t clear the rebound and Jordan Eberle scored.
  • During another Oilers power-play, the PK focused on negating point shots, which allowed for a really nice passing sequence and a tap-in goal at the far post for Leon Draisaitl (who was left unattended).
  • On a Flames PP, Mark Letestu beat out both Mark Giordano and Wideman for a loose puck and beat Elliott on a partial breakaway.

That’s four goals: a couple gaffes by the PK that led to fairly easy goals for Edmonton, and a couple breakaways. The McDavid breakaway was a flukey play after the Flames had a ton of zone control, and the Letestu one was after Giordano and Wideman misplayed the puck and he took advantage. Of these, perhaps the Letestu goal was one he should’ve stopped (and you could make a case that maybe he should’ve swallowed up the rebound on the Eberle goal).


The Flames gave up 23 scoring chances against, nine of which were considered “high-danger.”

  • A defensive breakdown left Teuvo Teravainen all alone in front of the net. Elliott made the initial stop but couldn’t stop the rebound chance.
  • At the end of a two-man advantage for Carolina (just after the first penalty expired), Victor Rask picked the top corner with a wrist shot. Deryk Engelland had Elliott screened.
  • Viktor Stalberg was sprung on a breakaway, beating out Dougie Hamilton and Jyrki Jokipakka. His shot was partially stopped by Elliott but trickled in.
  • On a late-game two-man advantage, Carolina made some nice passes and Jeff Skinner beat Elliott with a nice shot.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: a breakaway off a defensive miscue, defenders missing checks and leaving players unattended in front of the net, and the PK giving up goals (granted, these ones were primarily off 5-on-3s). Elliott probably wants the Stalberg goal back considering he got a piece of it.


Elliott has given up 14 goals. That sounds scary five games into the season. But a lot of those goals were products of systemic breakdowns by the Flames that left their new netminder in a really tough position when it comes to making game-saving stops. He probably should have made a few more game-savers than he has, but he’s being put in a situation where he’s having to bail out his team way too often.

  • FL@med

    Trade Versteeg, sign Tomas Fleischmann. 750K cap hit, and is a reliable 20 point + scorer. He can be the stop gap until (Hopefully) Pribyl is ready. Until then keep Tomas Fleischmann on the 4th line.

  • RKD

    Elliott had great numbers in front of a great defensive Blues squad, he knew it was going to be much more of a challenge on a team that struggles defensively. That being said Elliott can’t stop everything but at the same time, he should be able to steal a game. He’s supposed to be the bonafide number 1 starter yet is being outplayed by Chad Johnson. If Elliott doesn’t pan out it’s only a 1 year deal, if Johnson plays well he should be getting an extension.

    • supra steve

      Agreed. Other thing about Elliott is his paltry $2.5 million cap hit. That’s lower than either of the Flame tenders from last season. The guy is almost certain to bounce back with some quality starts soon.

  • Deef

    Great article. Sums up the Flames problems in a nutshell and it’s way to easy (and typical of my fellow flames fans) to blame goaltending.

    Elliott has been playing with one of the best defences in the league for the past three years. He’s simply not used to that many breakaways and odd man rushes (welcome to calgary moose).

    If the D can clean it up then Elliott’s game should improve too. But don’t resign him until it does.

  • Albertabeef

    I got slagged last year but Elliott is proving me right. No goalie could win with this team the way it is. Hamy was a dud signing. Wideman should have been traded two seasons ago while he was worth a bag of pucks. I don’t really want to see an entire season lost to “learning the coach’s system”. That’s just rediculous. Who hired a peewee coach anyways? No system should be that hard to learn from guys who have played the game for so long. Are we trying a entirely new idea that is so foreign to the players? Send GG back to peewee where he belongs. Wait, the parents would fire him at this point lol. So sad.