|Brian Lee congratulates Senators goaltender Brian Elliott after Ottawa's recent 3-2 victory over the Thrashers in Atlanta (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images).
Brian Elliott doesn't know when the ride might end.
Truth be told, the Ottawa Senators rookie goaltender would rather not spend too much time pondering that question. It just all seems too good to be true so far.
"It hasn't really sunk in. I'm trying not to let it sink in," Elliott said after the Senators' 3-2 triumph over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. "I just want to keep it going and I'll think about it after the season."
Elliott's play has been a revelation since his callup from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators two weeks ago. The Senators have gone 3-1-1 with Elliott between the pipes. His goals-against average (2.18) and save percentage (.924) have been top notch.
"He's played some good games and made some real good saves," said Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg. "There has been a goal here and there that he's let in that he'd like to have back but for the most part, I think he's looked solid and confident in net."
It's been like that almost from the moment Elliott settled into the Ottawa net for his first start of the season Jan. 10 against the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place. Before then, he'd made one previous National Hockey League start, beating the Thrashers 3-1 in a surprise start on Oct. 10, 2007.
"I tried to feel as comfortable as I could right off the bat," said Elliott. "Every time you get out there, those butterflies go away pretty fast."
His teammates have been a big help in that process.
"I've been around here for so long for summer camps and stuff, so it's more comfortable than (if I had) just come up here and never been here before," said Elliott. "I know a lot of the guys and they made it pretty comfortable for me."
Some would suggest Elliott's arrival has provided the spark the Senators needed as they try to revive their playoff hopes. Hartsburg agreed it's no coincidence that Elliott's strong play has paralleled the recent improvement in team play and results.
"(Elliott) has made some real big saves at crucial times in games," said Hartsburg. "He's given us the saves and given us the chance in games to get something out of it. Before, there were goals going in at the wrong times. I think what Brian has done for us is when the game is on the line, he's been very good for us."
Added defenceman Brendan Bell: "He is just that calm, steady guy in net and I think if we're going to turn this around, we're going to need that."
If all of this seems a little surreal to Elliott, consider where he's been. The 23-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., was passed over in the Ontario Hockey League draft. The Senators selected him in the ninth round (291st overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
"It hasn't really sunk in. I'm trying not to let it sink in. I just want to keep it going and I'll think about it after the season." - Brian Elliott
After a standout career at the University of Wisconsin – including a 2006 NCAA title – he spent all of last season and the first 30 games of this one with the B-Sens. His numbers in Binghamton were spectacular (18-8-1 with a 2.31 GAA and .926 save percentage) and he was named the AHL's goaltender of the month for December prior to his promotion to Ottawa.
Given what he's been through to get here, Elliott isn't taking his stay in the big show for granted.
"You have to appreciate it," he said. "You don't get a lot of chances up here, so you just have to make the most of it. I worked hard to get here and I want to stay here."
And if that means taking a pass on Monday's AHL All-Star Classic in Worcester, Mass. – Elliott was chosen as the starter for the Canadian team – then so be it.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing and you never know if you're going to play in one of those again," said Elliott. "But this is my ultimate goal, to play here, so I'm not complaining too much."