Leafs’ goalie Frederik Andersen rebounds from another slow start

The Toronto Maple Leafs believed goaltender Frederik Andersen’s slow start to the 2016/17 NHL season was due to an injury suffered prior to training camp. However, they became concerned when he struggled out of the gate at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign as well. It took the 28-year-old native of Denmark a while to get going last year as he adjusted to a new team and city after being acquired in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks. He finished the season well with a 33-16 record along with a 2.67 goals-against average, a 91.8 save percentage and  four shutouts. His play was one of the main reasons the Leafs returned to the playoffs for the first time since the shortened 2012/13 season.

Andersen’s regular-season stats were about the same in last year’s playoffs, but the Leafs fell in six games to the Washington Capitals, with five of the contests going into overtime. When the current season faced off, the Leafs’ organization and fans expected Andersen to get off to a quick start since he was healthy and didn’t miss any time in training camp like the year before. They were wrong though as he had trouble early on and his goals-against average rose while his save percentage plummeted. That all seems to be in the past now however as he’s in top form and appears to be leading the club to its second straight playoff appearance.

As of December 11th, Andersen’s record was 17-8-1 with three shutouts in 26 outings and he was 5-1 in his past six starts. Ironically, he seems to thrive when he doesn’t get much help from the Leafs’ defence as he was 4-0-1 in games in which he faced 40 or more shots. In fact, he’s been the busiest goalie in the NHL so far this season by facing the most shots at 896 and making the most saves with 826 of them. He’s also played the most minutes of any goalie, ranks second in the league in wins with 17, is ranked ninth in save percentage at 92.2 and is tied for second in shutouts with three. Andersen’s goals-against average is 16th-best in the league at 2.67 and has been improving each week after it was above 3.00 earlier in the year.

Toronto has won five of their past six games and when Andersen does get a rare night off in back-to-back game situations, backup netminder Curtis McElhinney has been steady. McElhinney has played just five games, but has a goals-against average of 2.44 with a 92.5 save percentage, a shutout and a record of 3-2. With Andersen leading the way and getting a helping hand from McElhinney, the Leafs record as of Dec. 11 was 20-10-1 for 41 points, which was the fourth-most in the league. Consistency has been a huge factor in the team’s success so far this season as the longest they’ve gone without earning a point has been two games. And this has happened on just three occasions. If Andersen could eliminate his slow starts to the season, there’s no telling how good this Leafs team could be. 

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