The Flyers’ top two goalies were not healthy in their recently completed playoff series against Pittsburgh, which averaged six goals in its four victories.
Those goalies, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, might both need surgery, it was revealed when the players cleaned out their lockers and met with management and the media Wednesday at their Voorhees practice facility.
Neuvirth said he will need arthroscopic surgery on both hips, and Brian Elliott said he might need another procedure after having core-muscle surgery Feb. 13. Elliott returned late in the regular season and labored through most of his four playoff games .
“I definitely came back a little early,” Elliott said, adding that a month ago he “couldn’t put on my socks or tie my shoes … but it got better and the trainers and doctors said be patient with it and it’ll come back.”
“It’s the playoffs. It is what it is. No one is 100 percent,” Neuvirth said. “You’ve got to play through the pain.”
Neuvirth said he was going to change trainers and his offseason workout regimen – he is staying in the area instead of returning to the Czech Republic – to prepare for the season and try to stay healthy.
This will be Neuvirth’s third trainer in three years.
“It’s just not working out for me,” he said of the injury woes throughout his career. Neuvirth added his agent hooked him up with a trainer, Adam Francilia, who has worked with several NHL goalies, including Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellebuyck of Winnipeg.
Elliott said he was “crawling” on the trainer’s table after taking part in the playoff games.
“You’re just trying to push through it. I had a couple practices before getting back into games, and you’re kind of in between trying to push yourself to get back into form and also taking care of your body so you’re not too sore to skate the next day,” he said. “It was just hard to manage it a little bit, and I’m still dealing with issues as far as the injury is concerned.”
In the six-game series loss to the Penguins, Elliott was 1-3 with a 4.75 goals-against average, Neuvirth was 1-1 with a 4.40 GAA and .847 save percentage, and Petr Mrazek, who will soon be an ex-Flyer, was 0-0 with a 3.87 GAA and .857 save percentage.
“It’s tough, but at the end of the day, you have to go out there and play to tear up some of the scar tissue stuff because you can only massage that stuff out of there before you’ve got to just tear it up the way you play,” said Elliott, who had a solid regular season but was not sharp in the playoffs. “The last couple games, I’m glad they only kept it under 20 shots because I don’t think I could do any more than what I had. It got better every day just because of that, and you have to tear that stuff up to get full range of motion again. I’m confident that it will get back to normal, but it definitely wasn’t normal.”
With Neuvirth in the net, the Flyers had a 4-2 lead late in the second period of Game 6 at the Wells Fargo Center before falling apart and allowing six goals, including an empty-netter, in the final 26 minutes, 25 seconds.
“When it was 4-2, I thought we were going to win this series,” Elliott said. “Couple quick goals, you get a little tight — guys were squeezing the sticks a little bit. I think that trip on Coots [Sean Couturier] in our defensive zone leading to that goal, I don’t know how you miss that because it’s pretty blatant; he lands straight on his back, and it causes a goal.”
The Flyers allowed 24 goals, excluding an empty-netter, in their four playoff losses, or six goals per contest.
Neuvirth was asked if he and Elliott were healthy, would it have made a difference in the series?
“I don’t think the goaltending was the problem,” he said. “We were giving up a lot of goals, but a lot of goals we had no chance to stop.”
Defenseman Radko Gudas, whose turnovers led to two goals that enabled the Penguins to tie the score at 4-4 in Game 6, said he refused to talk to the media after the loss because “I didn’t think I did a good enough job and I wasn’t really sure how to put it. I didn’t want to say something I would regret.” … Jake Voracek on coach Dave Hakstol: “He was more emotional behind closed doors than he was behind the bench.”