There were times in last year’s Stanely Cup playoffs match up with the Boston Bruins that Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen played like a Conn Smythe candidate. More often, however, he was terrible. There have been many theories about why Andersen’s play fell off in the playoffs. It may have been the Maple Leafs defence didn’t play well enough or it may have been that the Bruins top line was just that good. Or maybe both of those combined. But there is a theory that resting him more in the regular season will fix whatever was wrong. But if you look closely at what resting him a few more games would be like, that theory doesn’t really hold water.
Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie Frederik Andersen Doesn’t Need Fewer Games
If the reason the Maple Leafs play Andersen less is to play Garret Sparks more (assuming he wins the backup job), or because they want to reduce the likelihood of injury, then they should do it. It’s a good idea to give Sparks 20 games or so. It will give Mike Babcock and Kyle Dubas a much better idea of what Sparks can contribute to an NHL team. If the plan is to play Andersen him less so he’ll be more rested for the playoffs, well that’s another thing.
That’s A Lot Of Games
Andersen did see a lot of action last season. He played in 66 regular season games. Only two goalies played more than him. Cam Talbot and Connor Hellebuyck played in 67 each. Hellebuyck also took his team to the Western Conference Finals, posting a GAA of 2.36 and a save percentage of .922 along the way. Much better than Andersen’s playoff numbers of 3.76 GAA and .896 save percentage.
In Anderen’s final game, his 74th, he allowed six goals on 35 shots for a save percentage of .829. Holby wasn’t much better in his 74th game, allowing four goals on 33 shots for a save percentage of .848. But Holtby allowed only 11 goals on 126 shots in the entire Stanely Cup Final series. That’s a save percentage of .913.
Holby was able to play well despite playing a lot of games. As were other goalies. Many in fact over the years. Sure some play may drop off as season-long fatigue sets it, but it shouldn’t to the degree it allegedly affected Andersen. His save percentages dropped from .918 to .896. That drop can’t be attributed to just playing a few too many games.
How many games would it take to consider Andersen more rested for the playoffs? Holtby played 54 games last season. If Andersen plays 54, it means Sparks, or whoever would play 28 games. That’s not likely to happen. What’s more likely is Andersen drops to about 60 games.
That means Andersen would potentially hit that 74th game in game seven of the second round. Does that mean the Maple Leafs would cruise through the first round only to see Andersen’s save percentage drop drastically in the next round?
Andersen played those 74 games over 203 days. Would playing the same number of games over 217 or so days really make that much of a difference? Holby played his 77 games over 246 days. If the Maple Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup, they’ll need Andersen to play 80 games over 240 to 250 days.
What’s hard to believe isn’t that resting him a few extra days in the regular season will help him perform better in the playoffs. What’s hard to believe is that his workload last season was the reason his numbers dropped off so dramatically.
Andersen has been about as consistent a goaltender in the regular season as they come. Even down to his early season troubles. His save percentage the past three seasons has been .919, .918, .918. And his career save percentage is a predictable .918.
In the playoffs, his save percentage has been wild. It’s ranged from last year’s .896, his worst, to .947 in 2015-2016 with the Anaheim Ducks. It’s a waste of time to look too deep into his playing time those seasons and how it relates to his playoff performance. The regular season has a way of averaging everything out so that by the end of the season everyone is where they should be stats wise. Give or take. The playoffs are full of small sample sizes, wild fluctuations everywhere.
Look at David Pastrnak‘s 13 points against the Maple Leafs in last year’s playoffs. It’s an anomaly. Not to take anything away from Pastrnak, but that’s not a sustainable scoring rate. That’s what makes the playoffs great. It brings out the best and the worst in players. What it’s not good for is establishing trends.
Andersen played in 66 games in the 2016-2017 season too. That year the Maple Leafs took the Capitals to six games before bowing out. Andersen had a .915 save percentage in that series. If fatigue was an issue last year. Why wasn’t it the year before?
So What Happened Last Year
It’s true that Andersen wasn’t very good in most of his playoff games last year. But the give the Bruins credit too. They played well and took advantage of weak points in the Maple Leafs defence. Specifically the right side. Which has yet to be addressed by the way.
Auston Matthews also didn’t play up to his potential against the Bruins. He had one goal and one assist in seven games. There is blame to go around. But it’s tough to put too much stock in one playoff series. Like Matthews, Andersen has been great for the Maple Leafs in his time in Toronto. One bad playoff series does not make a career. Nor are there simple answers. This team is different than last year with the addition of John Tavares, and it may be different again by playoff time.
If Andersen does finish the season near the top of the league in games played, it’s shouldn’t be doom and gloom for the Maple Leafs playoff hopes. Goalies of contending teams need to be capable of playing that many games. And Andersen hasn’t consistently shown significant fatigue due to playing heavy minutes. Most Stanley Cup winners have starting goalies logging many games played. Except for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Embed from Getty Images