PITTSBURGH — If Brian Elliott’s confidence was shaken by allowing five goals on 19 shots in Wednesday’s 7-0 thrashing from the Pittsburgh Penguins, he sure is a good actor.
“They came hard at us,’’ the Flyers goaltender said calmly afterward. “I don’t think my ability to change that …’’
If Claude Giroux is unnerved at all from what he saw in net Wednesday, he, too, is a master thespian.
“Nah, I’m not gonna … Moose played pretty great,’’ the Flyers captain said. “Back-door play, Crosby batted it in the air, deflection in front of the net. It’s not on him at all.’’
It’s this kind of faith that drives Dave Hakstol’s decision-making process. It’s why the coach, after briefly buying time for his answer after Wednesday’s game, responded to a question about starting Elliott in Game 2 Friday night like this:
“Right now, my first instinct is yeah. You know it’s always different as you get into the playoffs. It’s elevated a little bit. But you know coming back with Moose when he was coming off the injury – he’s our guy. He’s a huge reason why our team was able to put ourselves into a position to be in the playoffs. Because of his presence in the dressing room. And the trust we all have in him. That’s a pretty big factor.
“Like everything else, we’ll look hard at it. But my first gut is that he’s our guy. And I don’t see a reason we’d go away from him.’’
Well, here’s one that we can assume Hakstol is aware of, as well: Petr Mrazek had some incredible statistics in the 10 playoff games he started for Detroit before being traded here. Mrazek had three shutouts in those 10 starts, a 1.98 goals-against average overall, and a .927 save percentage.
Playing in relief of Jimmy Howard in Game 3 of a first-round series against Tampa Bay in 2016, Mrazek fashioned a 16-save, 2-0 shutout to give Detroit hope. The Red Wings lost the ensuing two games, with Mrazek allowing four goals total in them — one in the elimination game.
Certainly, he has shown that kind of play since coming to the Flyers. He has also displayed the annoying inconsistency that compelled Detroit general manager Ken Holland to trade him to the Flyers for a draft pick.
Truth is, Elliott has had some inconsistency as well. He was not sharp to start the season, and the jury is still out on whether he is fully recovered from the core muscle surgery he underwent seven weeks ago. “I don’t know, it’s a hard question to answer,’’ he said when asked if he thought he was up to speed yet. “It’s always hard when you miss a lot of time. But everybody’s dealing with stuff this time of the year. So there’s no excuses in the playoffs.’’
He was beaten in a variety of ways Wednesday night, and while Giroux blamed what was going on in front of him, the word “rusty’’ was used several times in the Pittsburgh locker room.
The Penguins believed that, and played that way, too, throwing rubber his way from all kinds of angles, seemingly throwing shade on the belief that the Flyers can compete with the Penguins and extend this series.
For his part, Elliott wasn’t buying it.
“It’s a loss,’’ he said. “That’s what it is at the end of the day. We have to come back here and try to get the next one. That’s the only way you can look at it. You can’t dwell on it too much. You have to learn from what happened and come out ready for the next game.’’