Brian Elliott's Numbers are Ridiculous
This is just getting silly. Brian Elliott has gone from being a good story, to a great story to being one of the best (if not the best) story of the NHL season. Elliott added another impressive performance against Columbus, turning away numerous chances and helping the Blues to a 2-1 victory. For those of us waiting for the bottom to fall out, Elliott is showing no signs of slowing. It's time to dive into the numbers behind his incredible run. Let's keep this thought in mind before moving further - Brian Elliott had to win the backup job in training camp. The competition with Ben Bishop was nearly even, and the decision by the coaching staff to go with Elliott to start the year seemed like it could have been based on the flip of a coin. The hope was that Elliott could be a reliable backup and if things got out of hand, Bishop was just a phone call away. Boy do those thoughts seem silly now. Brian Elliott has not only been a competent backup, he's been a brilliant starter that has all but physically forced Jaroslav Halak to the bench. Elliott deserves every praise he has received and if fans around the NHL haven't noticed, it's due time they find out about the surprising story in St. Louis. 10-1-0 Elliott's record. I don't place much stock in a goaltender's record as so much lies on what the team in front of him does. Like baseball, wins and losses weigh heavily on a team's offense and defense. In this case, while Ken Hitchcock has done possibly the best magic trick I've ever seen and made the Blues skate hard for a full 60 each and every night, Elliott has done more than enough to be deserving of the 10 victories he has to his name. He has made the key save. Often, he has made the key saves, stopping shots that he really has no business stopping. Regardless of angle, situation, or shooter, Elliott has stopped nearly everything that has been launched his way. 1.31 Elliott's goals against average. Not counting backups that have played in only one contest, Elliott's GAA leads the NHL. He's ahead of more noteworthy names such as Tim Thomas (1.86), Jimmy Howard (1.87) and Jonathan Quick (2.12). This statistic alone should not only make Elliott the best story the NHL has seen so far but a serious candidate for the Vezina Trophy. It's far too early to be talking about any awards with any sort of seriousness, but that's just how good Elliott has been. He has been the difference for the Blues and has been what a number one goaltender should be - the difference maker between two points and a loss. .951% Elliott's save percentage. To be candid, this one is just absurd. During his time as a regular goaltender in Ottawa, Elliott's save percentage struggled to stay above .900. 2008-09 - 31 appearances - .902% 2009-10 - 55 appearances - .909% 2010-11 OTT - 43 appearances - .894% COL - 12 appearances - .891% As you can see, Elliott's success and massively impressive save percentage was impossible to predict. The current numbers are so above what we expected that it's almost laughable (OK, I've laughed a few times out of disbelief when Elliott has robbed another would-be goal scorer). 308 - 15 Arguably the stat that puts it all together. Elliott has faced 308 total shots. Only 15 of those pucks have found the back of the net. Sure, it's just another way to write out his save percentage, but the physical image of 308 different shots and opportunities being flung towards Elliott's cage and realizing only 15 slipped behind him sums up just how incredible he has been. The Blues have done a great job in limiting the amount of shots Elliott has seen, but of those that have gotten through, Elliott has had no issue in keeping the vast majority out. Even in situations that heavily favor the shooter, such as a breakaway or an odd man rush, Elliott has risen to the occasion time and time again.
There you have it. A brief look behind the numbers that are fueling Elliott's success. One really big question remains - can this last? I think I speak for all of us when I say I'm pretty shocked things have progressed as far as they have. Elliott showed glimpses of true talent with the Senators, but his most recent form with Ottawa and more recently with Colorado gave little to be hopeful for. Now we are looking at a goaltender that it would seem foolish to bench and one that has edged right into the discussion for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's best netminder.
Obviously, Elliott will look human again in the near future. The odds of him maintaining this pace all season long are slim to none. Then again, that's what I thought his chances were of taking over the starter's job and going 10-1-0 coming into the 2011-12 season. Here's to hoping I'm wrong again.