Brian Elliott was flying around his crease, sprawling left to right.
He may have spent more time on his side than on his actual skates.
“It kind of felt like wave on wave,” the goalie said.
Elliott was doing everything in his power to keep the Flyers from drowning during their home opener in front of 19,133 fans psyched for new life, a fresh season.
One of the more difficult — and debated — decisions for a head coach is when to pull a goalie as a game starts to unravel. Coaches often do it to spark a team and send a message, clinging to some last hope before there is none.
It also happens when a goaltender simply isn’t good enough and doesn’t warrant being between the pipes.
And that’s why Elliott deserved every second of the 59:45 he played in the Flyers’ embarrassing 8-2 loss to the Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center (see story). He gave all he had and the effort was tangible by the simple eye test. Any human being with a heart would have felt for the guy as he tried withstanding barrage after barrage (see highlights).
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere spoke with conviction postgame and his message said it all:
When you leave a guy out to dry like that, it’s really not fair.
When you see a goalie like that, you want to battle for him. It’s just ridiculous, it’s awful.
He played unreal. We sucked. It’s defense.
Elliott earned the right to stay in there.
“I’ll stay in there and battle it out as much as I can,” he said.
The issue was the onslaught happened so fast. Before you could blink, it was 4-0 at first intermission but there was no sense that Elliott was playing poorly. The team was, but not the goaltender. So, strategically, why remove him when he’s not the problem?
Then, the second period wasn’t terrible. It was actually an even 1-1 and the Sharks didn’t score until there was just 5:14 left in the stanza. For the Flyers, the middle period was so drastically better than the first that, again, pulling Elliott didn’t feel necessary.
And once the game had fallen truly out of hand in the third period, at that point, yanking a goalie is meaningless. Maybe the only reason would have been out of pure pity for Elliott, who never stopped playing when fans started exiting.
“I think Brian got hung out to dry on it,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Should have gotten him out of there probably after the second [period]. I wanted to give him an opportunity to keep battling, thought he was battling on every puck and every shot and by the time we got to the third period, the sixth one against, it’s too late to get him out and put [Calvin Pickard] into that situation.”
Overall, the Flyers surrendered 48 shots on the night. It marked the most they’ve allowed in a home game since Dec. 23, 1990, when they yielded 49 at the Spectrum.
“I think every man in this room, including myself, is better than that,” Elliott said. “You’ve kind of seen it around the league with some higher scores. Sometimes it takes a little bit of a wake-up call.”
Elliott didn’t need one during this game. He was wide awake and never had a second to rest.