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Elliott knows a thing or two about facing adversity and winning in the playoffs

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Kane. Toews. Hossa. Benn. Spezza. Sharp. Couture. Pavelski. Thornton.

Taken as a modern-day hockey-equivalent batting order, a Murderer's Row the equal of the '27 Yankees' lineup.

"You learn a lot from those series,'' Brian Elliott is saying a springtime later. "Especially against some pretty big dogs."

Big dogs, indeed.

Baskerville-sized Hounds.

He may now be in a new city, modelling a new logo, facing new dynamics, but the game and the aim remains the same.

When Flames' GM Brad Treliving made a splash June 24, adding the-then 31-year-old stopper from the Blues for a draft pick, this is what he must've envisioned.

His prize acquisition standing tall.

To be here, in this position, back at the playoff party, steeling himself for the charge of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and the big, brassy, bulldozing Anaheim Ducks.

"In playoffs,'' reminds Flames' assistant GM Craig Conroy, "you need two things: Great goaltending and timely scoring.

"Get those and you can go a long way.

"Els has been so good for us, so composed the second half of the season. Everyone has such trust in him, you can see it in their body language.

"In playoffs, you're counting on your goaltender to not only be good, to be consistent, but to maybe steal you a game here or there.

"If we go in there and take one of those first two …"

In 2004, of course, Conroy and an earlier vintage of unfancied Flames embarking on post-season were piggybacked all the way to a Stanley Cup final by the sublime Finn, Miikka Kiprusoff.

Recovering from a shaky opening, over the final half of the campaign Elliott could best be described as positively Kipper-esque, highlighted by an 11-game win streak, equalling a franchise record held by Mike Vernon that had stood for 28 years.

"He's been there and he's been there with expectations of big things coming out of St. Louis,'' says Flames' coach Glen Gulutzan. "He's performed under pressure. 

"Those things are all important this time of the year, especially the first round. I was talking with Gelly (Martin Gelinas) and it's a jungle, the first round. It's intense.

"You need to stay composed and it's good to have a guy that's been through that."

That's your cue, Brian Elliott.

For openers a year ago, he spit back 31 shots to eliminate Chicago 3-2 in Game 7 on home ice. Then he smothered 31 more in a winner-take-all at American Airlines Centre in Big D in Round 2.

The Blues were finally dashed at the second-last hurdle, falling in six games to the San Jose Sharks. Still, Elliott had been near enough the prize to feel it was there, within his grasp. And that sense of regret tinged with accomplishment can't help but linger with a fella.

During the Blues march, he'd logged 1,058 minutes over 18 post-season appearances.

"Those experiences help you,'' he says. "The little mental things you to say yourself to get you going. How you handle playing in a tough building in front of fans that are screaming at you.

"It's how you handle those pressure situations."

Those "Moooooooose!'' chants that reverberated around every nick and cranny of Scottrade during the Blues post-season push helped to motivate. Flames' partisans can't wait to take up the rallying cry Monday in Game 3.

"It's a different team, different year,'' Elliott points out. "Teams are good at home, especially in the playoffs. They rely on that energy that the crowd brings.

"I've only seen San Jose, not Anaheim (in post-season), so it'll be a new experience. But it's going to be pretty rockin' there.

"They've had good teams in the past and that's what makes it fun this time of year."

Ahead, Brian Elliott knows, some big dogs await.  

"It's a whole different ballgame when you get into the playoffs. You learn by experience and some of our guys definitely have that, a couple with Cups. I've been through the wringer, too, winning 15 games in the playoffs.

"For the younger guys, it's kinda trial by fire here. You go through those ups and downs. No one's going to win 16 straight. There are gonna be times when you have to come back in a game or rally from a bad game. You might get your butt kicked but you have to come back from that.

"Every game-sheet starts fresh."

Such a comfort, then, to be able to count on a battle-tested playoff performer at the hub position.

"I think you really have to go through it to get better at it,'' he repeats. "We went pretty far last year.

"I wish we could've gone further.

"But that's what this year's for."

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