Silver Nuggets: How ridiculous is Brian Elliott right now?

Mar 27, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) earned the number one star of the game after shutting out the Nashville Predators 3-0 at the Scottrade Center. Elliott set a franchise record for shutouts in a season with 9 and the Blues set a franchise record for home wins in a season at 30 wins. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

I think I might spend too much time writing about Brian Elliott. But it's hard not to be drawn to such a likeable player with such a ridiculously incredible story revealing itself right before our eyes.

Last year, Elliott had terrible numbers while backstopping a terrible Ottawa Senators team--and those terrible numbers got even worse after he was traded to the terrible Colorado Avalanche: He finished the season with an overall save percentage of 89.3, and a goals-against average of 3.34--and was nicknamed "Tank" by Avalanche fans for his contributions to their race to the bottom (and the first overall pick). He wasn't tendered a qualifying offer by the Avs, and became an unrestricted free agent, a rare occurrence for a three-year NHL veteran.

His transformation has been perhaps the most significant in NHL history from one season to the next among players without mitigating circumstances, such as injuries. He leads the league with his 94.3 save percentage, his 1.48 goals-against average, and his nine shutouts--all in just 36 games, meaning he averages one shutout for each four starts. There's a very real possibility that he will be the Blues' starting goaltender when they start the playoffs this year. He's virtually guaranteed to share the William M. Jennings Trophy with teammate Jaroslav Halak, and might even get a couple of votes for the Vezina Trophy even though he hasn't played enough of the season to truly compete for that award. Essentially, he's gone from being one of the league's (statistically) worst regularly-used goaltenders to being among the league's best.

A big part of his success has to do with Ken Hitchcock's defensive coaching style, but even before Hitchcock's hiring Elliott had beaten the odds to earn the backup gig with the St. Louis Blues and put up a 5-1 record. Most of the credit must go to Elliott himself, who took a critical look at his mental and physical performance in the off-season and made the changes necessary to become a league leader.

Sens fans should be happy for Elliott, despite his... bittersweet time in Ottawa. Not simply because he's earned what he's getting, but also because he's directly responsible for sending Ottawa's current top goalies to the nation's capital: He was traded in exchange for Craig Anderson, and his emergence in St. Louis pushed the Blues to shop Ben Bishop around and eventually ship him to the Sens. With those two and top prospect Robin Lehner in tow, the current Senators boast the best depth in goal that the franchise has ever had.

Senators headlines:

Hockey headlines:

  • Remember the big launch of the You Can Play project? Well, here's a great interview with one of the founders, Patrick Burke. (Raw Charge)
  • Brian Elliott earned his third straight shutout last night, and it was his ninth of the season--which is as many as he had in parts of four seasons with the Sens. (St. Louis Game Time)
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs lost last night. They are now officially eliminated from the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. (For the record, the Senators have missed the playoffs six times in franchise history.) (Pension Plan Puppets)
  • Some of the Leafs youngsters, though, may get some valuable experience with Toronto's AHL Marlies. (Postmedia)

Other sports headlines:

  • "Cricketer Takes 86 MPH Ball To The Crotch, Cracking His Cup" /cringe (Deadspin)
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