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TALE OF TWO BRIANS

Elliott's resurgence after the all-star break has helped drive Flames' playoff push

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers / calgaryflames.com

The conversations surrounding Brian Elliott before the all-star break couldn't be more different than they are now.

The splits? Remarkably different.

The results? Dramatically improved.

And following a half-season of struggles, the 31-year-old Flames goaltender has found his form and turned his fortunes.

"Personally, I've tried to just work on the little things that you always do to make yourself better," Elliott detailed to a swarm of reporters Tuesday. "You don't try to change too much. You can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. You keep sticking to the plan and not really worry about the results.

"Just worry about how you're playing and results usually follow after that."

The results have followed.

In the 23 games he played leading into the all-star break, Elliott posted a 9-12-2 record with a 2.88 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.

In his 12 appearances coming out of the all-star break, Elliott is 9-1-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

It's a drastic difference, and one that has helped push Calgary's current season-high winning streak to seven games and fixed the Flames firmly in the running for their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three years.

Video: Elliott on his resurgence between the pipes

"I just think he knows it's crunch time," forward Kris Versteeg said.

"He knows it's an important time of the season. You could tell when he came back from all-star break he was really hungry. He wanted to be in there. Him or [Chad Johnson], they both want to be in there…but you can see Ells is playing great.

"He's taken the bull by the horns."

He'd been bucked a few times in the process though.

"I think in anything you have self-doubts and things you have to battle," Elliott said. "That's the whole part of being an athlete, and especially a goalie.

"When you're in those individual positions in a team game like a pitcher or a quarterback you're kind of alone back there and you have to fight through things by yourself sometimes just in your head. That's why I think when you've been through a lot of things, a lot of situations, those experiences really help you along the way. You get older and you go through more things and you just get better at handling things.

"You just try not to go on that rollercoaster.

"You just try to stay even keel."

That's part of the turnaround.

Settling into a new environment after five seasons with the St. Louis Blues is another.

"He's just playing now," Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet said. "At the start of the year he was thinking a lot coming into a new situation, new team, new surroundings, new city.

"Now he's just playing his game.

"He's playing a lot more aggressive than he was at the start of the year. That comes with confidence. Once you get a couple wins you get on a roll and you get into that rhythm and that builds confidence and you can see that in his game right now."

It's come with putting in the work, too.

"He's certainly, and I've said it before, a real worker. Real professional," coach Glen Gulutzan said.

"We've said that when we first got him. We knew that when he came over from St. Louis.

"Yeah, he didn't get off to the start he wanted but he's persevered in this league and this season by doing the same thing all the time and that's putting together his work ethic and making sure he's a pro every day. The results have come to those guys.

"They know the formula.

"He's done a great job."

The rhythm is there.

So too is the confidence.

Wins have followed.

But Elliott's work isn't done yet.

"You're not through anything," Elliott said. "It's still going. Every day is a different challenge. I always try to be that battler, be that hard worker every day in practice and try to challenge the guys. If they can score on you that means they're going to be going next game and if they can't that means you are. It's just those little individual things everyday that you try to come out on top of.

"You block everything out.

"Good, bad or ugly, you just come in every day with a smile on your face and try to be better that day."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a little like winning the lottery for Micheal Ferland.

The numbers he used to hit paydirt? 13 and 23.

Since being elevated to a line on Feb. 21 alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Ferland has been racking up the points.

In that first tilt against Nashville, he scored two goals and now after seven games as a trio he has five tallies.

He has scored three goals and six points and is plus-6 in the club's last four games, including lighting the lamp once in the 5-3 matinee victory over the visiting New York Islanders Sunday.

Life is good right now for Ferland, who's making the most of his opportunity to skate alongside two of the best young players in the league during the Flames' impressive playoff push.

"I'm having a lot of fun playing with Johnny and Mony," said Ferland after Tuesday's practice. "Most importantly, I think, we just have to keep having fun playing together. I've said before they're both great players and they make the game more simple. You just have to try and stay out of Johnny's way when he's coming up with the puck.

"(I'm trying to be) hard on the forecheck, being the first in and trying to create room for both of them."

Fun isn't a word you hear in pro sports often enough.

However, with the Flames riding a seven-game win streak and his line clicking on all cylinders the game right now, to boil it down, is simply fun.

Kind of like an afternoon of making plays on the pond with your friends with not a care in the world.

"I think when you're having fun you just have more swagger," said Ferland. "You're not gripping your stick, you're out there making plays and you're comfortable. When you're not having fun, you're gripping that stick and maybe missing open nets."

Just 62 games into the season, Ferland has already set a personal best for goals at 13 and points with 20.

Perhaps more impressive is his 15.9 shooting percentage, much better than the 3.3% mark he had last season when scored four goals in 71 regular-season games.

That 15.9% mark is better than six of the players currently in the top-10 in league goal scoring.

"I didn't even know anything about that," admitted Ferland. "Hopefully I can keep finding open spots and keep shooting."

No doubt 13 and 23 hope so, too.

After struggling at certain points in the season, Ferland is making sure he's enjoying his scoring run, born out of hard work and perseverance, that has helped propel the Flames up the standings.

"It's nice to get rewarded," he said.

 

 

 

 

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