Keep your head up if you score on Brian Elliott in practice, says his Calgary Flames teammate Troy Brouwer.
“He gets angry,” Brouwer said. “He’ll shoot the puck back at you in the corner. When the puck hits the glass by your head, it’s a wake-up call.”
The forward knows this from experience, having been Elliott’s teammate in St. Louis last season.
But Elliott doesn’t play agitated in goal. He’s energy efficient with little wasted movement.
“The way he practises is the way he plays in games,” Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet said.
“He treats practices like a game and it shows. He’s so focused and so competitive. He doesn’t over-move, he reads the play really well and is just dialled in and engaged when he plays.”
Acquired in a draft-day deal for a second-round and a conditional pick, the 31-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., and free-agent signing Chad Johnson were the off-season solutions to Calgary’s goaltending woes.
The Flames’ goals-against average of 3.13 was the worst in the NHL last season.
Calgary opens the regular season Wednesday on the road against Edmonton.
The more experienced of the two new goalies, Elliott indicated in training camp he’s ready to be Calgary’s new No. 1 with two goals allowed in seven periods of pre-season action.
He gave up a single in a 2-1 shootout win over Arizona in his final exhibition start.
New Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan calls Elliott “a good get.”
“He’s a real pro,” the coach observed. “It lets everybody play with a little less tension. You’re not afraid if you have one little bobble or turnover that it’s going to end up in your net.” While sharing the Blues net with Jake Allen, Elliott produced sparkling numbers: a 23-8-6 record; a league-best save percentage of .930; a goals-against average of 2.07 that tied for second in the NHL.
Elliott started 18 playoff games in the Blues’ run to the conference final for a 9-9 record, .921 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA.
But he wasn’t surprised when St. Louis chose to part with him and hitch its goaltending wagon to the 26-year-old Allen.
“There’s no bad blood at all with the Blues,” Elliott said. “It was just a simple case of a numbers game and it comes down to contract time.
“If I could get an opportunity somewhere else, I was happy to do that and they made that an option coming here.”
When you’re the second-last player taken in an NHL draft, which Elliott was at 291st by the Ottawa Senators in 2003, entitlement isn’t part of your athletic makeup.
“I’ve always been kind of the guy that’s been overlooked a little bit,” he said. “That’s definitely helped. I like to fly under the radar a little bit and just go about my business and quietly win games.”
Elliott has one year remaining on a contract counting $2.5-million (U.S.) against the cap, according to General Fanager.
Johnson’s is a one-year deal worth a reported $1.7-million, so both will be competing for job security as well as starts.
“You’ve got to win to stay in,” Elliott said. “Just the ability to come in and carry a load of games and be the guys that’s counted on for a lot of starts, that all you want as a goalie, especially in this league.”
A lot has happened for Elliott all at once with a new team, a new city, for his American wife, Amanda, a new country, and now a new baby boy. Owen, their first child, was born Oct. 2.
“My wife’s been a rock star allowing me to get as much rest for camp and the games as possible,” Elliott said. “She’s been unbelievable.”
A new coaching staff in Calgary is actually helpful in adjusting to a new team, he said, as opposed to joining a club with entrenched systems and personnel.
“Everybody is trying to learn and no one is getting frustrated with anybody because you know it’s a process,” Elliott explained.
“Guys are learning the new calls, new plays, new breakouts and I’m a part of that now. I’m in that learning process with them.”