Usually it takes a little deep thinking to name a first-half Flyers’ MVP.
Not this year.
It’s not even close. Goaltender Brian Elliott basically has kept the Flyers somewhat afloat, even if they’re scrambling to get out of the Metro Division basement.
Elliott, who started his 16th straight game on Saturday, has “stolen’’ a couple of decisions for the Flyers this season and that’s something that might have been missing around here in recent years.
The netminder gets the only A+ on this season’s Flyers’ mid-term report card.
“He’s been real good for us,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said. “There are one or two games where he certainly has (stolen games). We knew he was that guy in St. Louis.
“On a regular basis he’s given us the three, four, five timely saves pretty much every night.’’
Elliott has been especially good on nights when the Flyers as a team haven’t been that good.
“I think it’s two-fold,’’ Hakstol said. “It’s night or two when he can win you a game when you’re far less than at your best. But it’s also on a regular basis. He gives the guys confidence that when there’s a breakdown, he’s going to be there and shut that play down.’’
General manager Ron Hextall said he’s not really surprised by Elliott’s performance.
“He’s won us a couple games for sure and we probably lost a couple games where if we had scored another goal that you could argue he had a big part in the win,’’ Hextall said. “That’s what your goalies are supposed to do.
“I had high expectations for him. He’s probably a little bit of an underrated goalie the last few years. He’s done a good job for us.’’
Here’s the Flyers’ mid-term report card:
>A+ Brian Elliott: He’s been a two-time NHL star of the week (second, third) and an iron horse, having played every game since late November.
>A Sean Couturier: Enjoying a career year, having already set a new career high for goals (19) and he’s been the top plus-minus forward, hovering in the plus-12 mark.
>A Claude Giroux: The first number to jump out at you is the plus-10. That’s a big improvement over recent years. He’s healthy and stayed in the NHL’s top 10 in scoring.
>A Shayne Gostisbehere: A big bounce-back year for Gostisbehere, who’s currently third in scoring for NHL defensemen. He’s an even plus-minus and playing like he did his spectular rookie season a couple years back.
>A Ivan Provorov: Among the league leaders in ice time, he brings a consistent strong effort every night. Flyers confident to use him in all critical situations, which explains why he’s on the ice so much.
>A- Jake Voracek: The only knock on Voracek might be his goal total (8). He was leading the NHL in assists (40) heading into Saturday action.
>A- Robert Hagg: Among the league leaders in hits, plus his blocked shot total is impressive. He’s also the Flyers’ top plus-minus defenseman, staying in double digits.
>B Travis Konecny: A promotion to the first line has really helped his confidence. While the offensive numbers aren’t there, he’s contributing in other ways – even had a fight the other night.
>B Radko Gudas: His grade might be higher, if not for that 10-game suspension. Steady physical player who has a plus number.
>B Scott Laughton: He’s on pace for 15 goals and that’s not bad for a fourth-line player getting only 12 minutes a night.
>B- Wayne Simmonds: Injuries slowed him down at the start and his minus-8 reflects that. Also, his power-play goal total (6) probably should be higher.
B- Valtteri Filppula: The veteran center has given a steady performance at second-line center and also provides good leadership as former Stanley Cup winner.
B- Jordan Weal: Might be feeling a bit of pressure from the offseason contract he signed. Look for him to post better numbers in second half.
C+ Michael Raffl: Got off to a slow start but the three game-winning goals in western Canada changed everything. Now up to seven goals after shooting blanks in 43 straight games.
C+ Andrew MacDonald: Took a beating in the media the past couple of years, mainly because he’s overpaid. But other defensemen will tell you he’s steady night-in, night-out.
C Nolan Patrick: Really hard to get an accurate grade here. He’s been slowed by a concussion and no one knows how long it takes to fully recover from abdominal surgery.
C Travis Sanheim: Played well until December and has been scratched of late. No doubt the minus-9 had something to do with it.
C Dale Weise: He’s more engaged than last season and playing with more confidence. Also a workhorse.
C Taylor Leier: Started off fast but now finds himself on the bench. Again, a minus-5 hasn’t helped matters.
C Brandon Manning: Missed almost a month due to injury but his four goals and five assists have been valuable.
C- Jori Lehtera: He’s only been in 23 games so his impact really hasn’t been that great.
C- Michal Neuvirth: Long-term injury again this season. What’s new?
C Dave Hakstol: Looks more comfortable in his third year behind the bench but his team hasn’t quite played up to expectations. The Flyers are in danger of missing the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1992-93/1993-94.
C+ Ron Hextall: He’s sticking to his long-range plan to rebuild the Flyers through the draft, rather than quick fixes like trades and free agents. Kudos for acquiring Elliott. The negative? Probably one or two proven scorers short of playoff contention.