Brian Elliott might not be the Flyers’ MVP but he’s certainly a “VVP.’’
What, pray tell, is a VVP?
Well, it’s a made-up acronym for “Very Valuable Player,’’ a role the No. 2 goaltender seems to readily embrace.
It’s not just the stellar numbers: 5-1-0, 2.03 goals-against average, .931 save percentage.
Actually, it’s the timing of when he produces those numbers, mainly right after No. 1 netminder Carter Hart stubs his toe.
The 35-year-old Elliott is scheduled to come in from the bullpen again on Thursday night with hopes of getting the Flyers turned around after Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Penguins to open the unique three-game series at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
A loss in this game would leave the Flyers sitting on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in.
For many years “Moose’’ was a starting goaltender in the NHL, so it’s not like he’s some fourth-year guy still learning the ropes.
Asked during a Tuesday morning media Zoom call if he’s surprised by Elliott’s strong performance through the first 19 games of the season, coach Alain Vigneault shook his head.
“No, I’m not,’’ Vigneault said. “This was one of the first times in a long time he was healthy and could work out the right way. He’s had a long time to prepare himself.’’
In addition to serving as a mentor to Hart, Elliott provides a strong voice in the Flyers’ locker room.
“He’s been a real stable and good goaltender,’’ said Vigneault, mindful of Elliott’s pair of shutouts against Buffalo. “The fact that he was healthy, coming back, right mindset, wants to be a difference-maker on our team. . .we told him with the way things are on the schedule, you need your back-up to come in and be a difference-maker and that’s what Brian has done for us.’’
Captain Claude Giroux has been in the NHL as long as Elliott and appreciates the experience factor.
“Moose is playing well,’’ Giroux said. “You know what you’re going to get from him every game. We’ve always had confidence in Moose and his confidence is high right now.
“For us, it’s just focusing on what we can do to help his game and get a win at the end.’’
The Flyers have endured some tough stretches over the last four seasons, including last year’s .500 campaign, but Elliott still has posted a jaunty 55-30-12 mark.
Which is what makes him a very valuable player.
>Konecny still rounding into form
Coming off a three-week pause due to COVID-19 protocol, Travis Konecny did not appear to be performing at a hundred percent in Tuesday night’s game.
Vigneault believes a skating session on Wednesday with the taxi squad plus a Thursday morning skate should get him moving toward better things.
After using Konecny on a fourth line in his first game back, Vigneault said he wasn’t sure where the right wing might play in the second game vs. the Pens.
“I put him in a game without a full practice and that’s on me,’’ Vigneault said. “I believe (Thursday) he’s going to be better than he was last game. I put him in a tough situation. Our COVID guys coming back right now, it’s challenging.’’
>No rest for ‘workhorse’ Provorov
Vigneault said he was considering some lineup changes but didn’t want to divulge them until game time.
He revealed he’s providing some “load management’’ for some players but Ivan “Ironman’’ Provorov won’t be one of them. The Flyers’ defenseman has played in 334 games and that streak will not be ending simply for an off day.
“He’s not one of the guys I’m looking at,’’ Vigneault said. “During the offseason, ‘Provy’ is a guy who skates twice a day, has strong workouts. I mean he’s a workhorse. He’s capable of playing big minutes against big lines. He’s not one of the guys I’m concerned about, I’m not worried about him.’’
>Can Patrick get his offense going?
Nolan Patrick still hasn’t reached his top gear on offense yet with just two goals for the season but that doesn’t seem to concern his coach.
“I see Nolan working extremely hard,’’ Vigneault said. “Getting more involved – it hasn’t materialized on the scoresheet. It has come up more frequently on our scoring chances.
“I’ve always felt he’s been defensively responsible, I just want him to be a little grittier on the battles inside.’’
Vigneault said the Flyers have to show patience with Patrick, who missed last season with migraine headache disorder, and Oskar Lindblom, who’s recovering from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“When you’re out for that length of time,’’ Vigneault said, “and you don’t train for that length of time, it takes a while to get back. They know where their game is. They have to show resilience, be positive with themselves and continue to work to where their game needs to be.’’
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