Elliott playing a starring role for the Senators in New Year

Jamie Bell, Staff

3/29/2010 3:10:06 PM

Stop if you've heard this one before, but it appears as though the Ottawa Senators have finally found their number one goaltender.

Dominik Hasek, Ray Emery, Martin Gerber, Alex Auld, Pascal Leclaire - since the lockout, all five of these men have been deemed the savior between the pipes for the Senators at one point or another.

All five were handed the number one job, and all five relinquished that role due to injuries, off-ice issues or poor play.

Heading into the season, Brian Elliott was largely an afterthought. The 24-year old was expected to serve as Leclaire's backup and largely stay in the shadows; however since the calendar turned to 2010 there have been few goaltenders in the league as prominent.  It's a fact that has not been lost on his teammates.

"He's been outstanding, giving us a chance to win every night, making big saves," said Senators' forward Mike Fisher.  "He's been calm and cool back there and that's exactly what we need."

Since the New Year, only one goaltender, the Red Wings' Jimmy Howard, has more than Elliott's 18 victories.  In addition he is seventh in goals against average with 2.32 and tied for 11th in save percentage with a sparkling .919%.

This past week Elliott enhanced his reputation by going a perfect 4-0-0 with a pair of shutouts while posting a .967 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.00.  In typical fashion, Elliott credited his success to his teammates.

"It's more of a team thing when we win four in a row and don't let any goals in for two of them, that just speaks to the team," Elliott said.  "I wouldn't have had those shutouts without Volchy [Anton Volchenkov] and Philly [Chris Phillips] blocking some open nets." 

The Newmarket, Ontario native was recognized for his accomplishments by being named the NHL's First star of the week.  With all of these accolades coming his way, how does Elliott avoid getting a swelled head?

"Don't watch TV, don't read the newspaper, that's what I do," Elliott said with a laugh.

While Elliott himself may not pay attention to his stats, others have noticed and are giving him a lot of the credit for pulling the Senators out of their post-Olympic doldrums and back into the thick of the playoff race in the East with a shot at challenging the Sabres for the Northeast Division title.

"He's played really well," said Phillips.  "We've had some big games where he's come up really big for us.  That's something as a team that you love to see a goaltender get hot at this time of the season."

Elliott was a key part of the Senators franchise record 11-game win streak just prior to the Olympic break, however when the Games were over, both he and the Senators went into a bit of a swoon.  Elliott picked up consecutive losses to teams that are likely to miss the playoffs in the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Atlanta Thrashers.  At that point Senators' general manager Bryan Murray sat down with his young netminder and gave him the following advice.

"Be Brian Elliott," Murray told reporters of his discussion with Elliott.  "Be big in the net.  Play your angles a little bit better.  Don't be tight when you start out.  Show the team that you are a confident guy.  I told him a couple of tricks that I can't tell you right here, but he's done a heck of a job."

With a salary of $800,000 this season and another year remaining on his current contract, Elliott is giving the Senators plenty of bang for their buck.  In a season where high-priced free agent signings have not lived up to expectations, it has to be a relief to Sens' management to see how Elliott has been able to seize the starter's job and refuse to relinquish.  Considering the team's goaltending history, it is likely an unfamiliar feeling.