.900 reasons Craig Anderson needs to be better

History shows that Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson will have to be much better for the team to make the National Hockey League playoffs.

In the past five seasons, only one NHL team – the 2006-07 Tampa Bay Lightning – has made the post-season when its number one goaltender had a save percentage below .900. The Lightning squad featured the forgettable combination of Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis.

As the Senators jockey for the position in the tight fight for playoff contention in the Eastern Conference (they ranked ninth before Thursday’s games), Anderson’s save percentage is .895. The Boston Bruins tandem of Tuukka Rask (.945) and Tim Thomas (.943) lead the way, followed by former Senator Brian Elliott, who has posted a stirling .940 with the St. Louis Blues.

Anderson is also coming off a sub-par performance, when he allowed four goals on seven shots in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens and coach Paul MacLean won’t decide until Friday morning whether to start him or back-up Alex Auld against the Calgary Flames.

“Part of it is just getting back to basics,” Anderson said following Thursday’s workout at Scotiabank Place. “Do what got you success in the past. There are going to be nights when you are not at your best. That’s just the nature of this game. You’re human. You’re going to make mistakes.”

The nature of the position calls for goaltenders to be able to quickly forget the rotten games, looking forward to the next one. Anderson has been able to do that. The three previous times he has been hooked early in games by MacLean, he has rebounded by winning his next start.

The way Anderson sees it, victories are the most important statistic.

“I just take it game by game, I’ll let (the media) sort out what you want to do with that,” he said. “Overall, we’ve won more games than we’ve lost (in regulation). Obviously, when we’ve lost, we’ve lost big, so the statistics are skewed on that a little bit, but when we win, everything’s good. Overall, it’s just giving the team a chance to win, so regardless of what the number say or what the score is, a win is a win.”

Still, if Anderson had been able to showcase more of the stellar play that he displayed when arriving in the trade for Elliott late last season – he flashed a .939 save percentage in 18 games with Ottawa – he likely would have stolen a few more wins.

MacLean says that Anderson’s play has been like the team in general: inconsistent.

“We can play real well and then we have games like we had against Montreal, where we’re not very good. The play of our whole team is a reflection of the goalies on our team. It’s not just them and it’s not just the team. When the team plays well, our goalies play well, so I think that’s the barometer that I see.”

MacLean wanted a longer look at the schedule – after playing Calgary Friday, the Senators immediately travel to Buffalo to face the Sabres Saturday and are back home against New Jersey on Monday – before naming his starting goaltender against the Flames, who had won four straight games before facing the Islanders on Thursday.

While Anderson’s statistics are far from impressive, winger Nick Foligno says they’re misleading.

“We definitely need to tighten up defensively and help Andy a bit more,” Foligno said. “The numbers don’t show how well he’s playing. He has given us some games where we probably didn’t belong to be in. He’s a real good goaltender and we have a ton of faith in him. A lot of the goals that he does get scored on he has no chance, because we’re not in the right place.”

 

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