At a time where the Toronto Maple Leafs need all hands on deck for their playoff push, Frederik Andersen is playing his best stretch of the season.
There are many elements to a championship team in the NHL with goaltending being the most important and in the Toronto Maple Leafs case any success or failure they are going to have will come from the play of Frederik Andersen.
When the Leafs netminder was going through his struggles it didn’t impact the team right away until Andersen had a tough month of February where he had a .884 save percentage and a 3.39 goals-against average in nine games. It also didn’t help that Toronto was still searching for a capable backup goalie until Kyle Dubas was finally able to pull the trigger to acquire Jack Campbell.
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It was clear that when he came back from his neck injury, Andersen was trying to get his confidence back and now we’re starting to see him regain his dominant form. Over his past three games, Andersen has a 2-0-1 record with a 0.97 GAA and a .967 sv% and against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he had to deal with more than just some tough scoring chances.
Twice in the game, Andersen was on the receiving end of run-ins from Lightning players starting with Blake Coleman who was rightfully penalized. Then Alex Killorn decided it was alright to jump on top of Andersen which was not called by the referees because “the puck was loose in the crease.”
Here is the thing, sure the puck is not frozen but how is it justified for the player to go on top of the goalie who is trying to cover it up? Some fans were complaining suggesting that Kyle Clifford should have gone after Coleman or Killorn but here is the issue.
Coleman already received a penalty so that put Tampa at a disadvantage considering how close the game was so if Clifford were to get an instigator penalty for challenging Killorn to a fight that he might not accept, is it worth giving the Lightning a power play and a chance to tie the game?
No one likes to see Andersen get run over and Clifford was brought in to bring toughness and make opponents accountable for running players but there is a time and place for it as well. If anything, the referees didn’t uphold their end by not calling a penalty either.
At the same time, Andersen admitted that the play got him fired up at a time where the Leafs needed him to be nearly perfect.
"“I thought it fired me up a bit, and I played with an edge,” Andersen told reporters after the game. “That’s huge down the stretch — to play with that little fire. So I thought that helped.”"
This is crucial for Andersen and the Leafs considering the next few games are against teams either in or fighting for a playoff spot and the Florida Panthers are pushing for third in the Atlantic Division.
As Sportsnet’s Luke Fox wrote after the game, Andersen has earned 11 of a possible 14 standings points in his past seven outings, including two shutouts and two wins over likely playoff opponent Tampa. That is crucial considering the Lightning and Boston Bruins have received elite-level goaltending and that’s a part of the reason why they are above the Leafs in the division.
Now the question is whether Andersen can bring this fire and stability when it matters the most in the playoffs considering his subpar outing during the first seven-game series against Boston where he had a .896 sv% and a 3.76 GAA. He was much better last year with a .922 sv% and a 2.75 GAA but was outdueled in Game 7 against Tuukka Rask.
That’s usually the difference in a playoff series where the games are close and the series goes the distance and if Andersen’s recent stretch suggests anything, he is capable of stepping up when the Leafs need him to.
What do you think about Andersen’s play lately? Can he keep this form heading into the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below.