After an unexpected relief appearance against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, backup goaltender Brian Elliott got the Philadelphia Flyers back on track with a 40-save shutout against the same opponent on Tuesday.
The win gave the Flyers a 3-1-0 record through the first week of the truncated 2020-21 NHL season, good for a share of first place in the East Division. Philadelphia now hits the road for a pair of games in Boston, starting Thursday, followed by two contests next week in New Jersey.
Tuesday’s win came after the Sabres surprised Philadelphia by a 6-1 score on Monday. Curtis Lazar and Sam Reinhart each potted a pair of goals to give Buffalo a 4-0 lead by the 8:09 mark of the second period when starter Carter Hart was replaced by Elliott after making just 18 saves.
In his first game action since August 30, in the Toronto bubble, Elliott gave up two goals on 15 shots in 31:51 on Monday.
Backup Aids Bounce-Back
According to Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, those minutes may have helped his 35-year-old backup prepare for his start on Tuesday.
“One of the few things that we saw from (Monday) night’s game, other than we can get right back at it tonight, was the fact that he did get some work in,” Vigneault said. “Brian’s been excellent throughout this start of training camp. He’s been working really hard. This was maybe the first time in the last couple years where he was healthy and able to train and work out. He’s come focused. He’s come ready to play and help us win games.”
“I think it is nice to have a little playing time under the belt before you get your first start,” Elliott agreed. “It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played. The first game of the year, you always want to start off on a good note. I think it was good to get in there.”
Now in his fourth season with the Flyers, the 35-year-old Elliott posted a respectable 16-7-4 record last season. He had a pair of shutouts, but faced 36 shots in total in the 3-0 wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. That’s a far cry from Buffalo’s 40-shot barrage on Tuesday.
Shot volume has been an unexpected early weakness for the Flyers, whose 28.7 shots allowed per game last season were the lowest in the league. This year, they’ve given up an average of 36 shots per game through the first week of action — among the highest totals in the NHL.
Philippe Myers, Morgan Frost Injured
With top defensive forward Sean Couturier expected to be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks after suffering a rib injury on Jan. 15, Philadelphia’s remaining skaters faced a tough enough task before two more teammates were injured on Tuesday.
Defenseman Philippe Myers was third in ice time through the first three games. He played just 6:04 on Tuesday before leaving the game with an apparent injury. Later, Morgan Frost was also sidelined, in just his second game of the year. Called up to replace Couturier on the Flyers’ top line, the 21-year-old played 12:10 on Monday and 8:18 on Tuesday. He did not record any points.
Frost shaken up by this hit. pic.twitter.com/ug6iPlT8xC
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 20, 2021
Both Myers and Frost were expected to undergo MRIs on Wednesday. An announcement on their status is expected sometime before Thursday’s game.
On Wednesday, the Flyers added defenseman Derrick Pouliot to their taxi squad. The 27-year-old, who has 202 games of NHL experience, had previously been assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Forward Connor Bunnaman moved from the taxi squad to the main roster on Monday.
Defenseman Mark Friedman has been the extra defenseman on the main roster, but has not yet dressed for a game. Nate Prosser, another NHL veteran, is also on the taxi squad, as is defenseman-turned-forward Samuel Morin. Shayne Gostisbehere has been on the NHL’s Covid Protocol list since the beginning of the season.
Rebounding After A Tough Loss
Like last season, the Flyers showed that they know how to regroup and respond after a loss. “(Monday) night was not what we wanted to put on the ice as a team,” said Elliott. “I thought the response (Tuesday) was really good.”
Philadelphia has not lost back-to-back games in the regular season since early January of 2020.
Another carryover from last season — plenty of points from Travis Konecny. His fourth goal of the season, late in the second period, proved to be the game winner.
LINDBLOM + KONECNY = THIS BEAUTIFUL GOAL pic.twitter.com/eDGmsUDx2j
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 20, 2021
“We don’t want to trade chances so much like we did,” Konecny said. “But we didn’t panic when it was 0-0. We just waited for our opportunities and capitalized on some of those tonight.”
Still, there’s more work to be done.
“It’s coming along,” Konecny said. “We still have a lot of things to touch on. Moosey (Elliott) stood on his head tonight and kind of kept us in there and gave us the chances to capitalize later in the game.”
Konecny now has six points through four games. Heading into Wednesday’s games, he was tied for the NHL scoring lead with six other players, including Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall.
The Flyers next opponent, the Bruins, have started out 1-1-1, putting them sixth in the eight-team East Division. During the offseason, Boston lost free-agent defensemen Torey Krug to St. Louis and Zdeno Chara to Washington. With leading scorer David Pastrnak still on injured reserve following offseason surgery, the Bruins have struggled to put the puck in the net.
Boston has been tight defensively, allowing just five goals in their first three games and averaging just 23.3 shots against. But they’re struggling badly at the offensive end of the ice, with just three goals in regulation time so far.