Is Andersen the Problem for the Leafs?
By Patrick Hoffman
Going into the season, hopes were high for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans.
They had a high octane offense that now featured John Tavares, a solid defensive corps, and an above average goaltender in Frederik Andersen. You put all these things together and you have the foundation for a team that should do well in the postseason.
Unfortunately for the Leafs and their fans, it did not turn out that way in this year's playoffs. For the third straight season, the team got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
Like last season, the season ended for the Leafs when the Boston Bruins beat them in seven games. It was a long and hard fought series, that unfortunately had the Leafs on the losing end.
One has to wonder what the problem has been for this team in the playoffs. Yes, their offense went quiet in some games, but they were not terrible the whole series.
What I am trying to figure out is if it is the play of Andersen that has hurt this team when it matters most. Yes, his stats certainly were not bad (3-4 with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage), but some of the goals he allowed in the playoffs this year were of the bad variety.
A perfect example of this is the first goal he allowed in Game 7. This was a goal that should have NEVER gone in. Andersen was down too early and clearly was not hugging his post enough to stop Bruins' forward Joakim Nordstrom's shot.
I understand that every goaltender allows a bad goal here and there, but this was an awful spot for Andersen to do it in. The goal he allowed put his team behind the eight ball early and both he and the team were never really able to recover from it.
Obviously, the entire series cannot be blamed on Andersen. While he did allow that terrible goal in Game 7, he also made big saves in the other six games to either help his team win or at least keep the game close.
With that said, it's worth noting that not only did he not beat the Bruins in the postseason this year, but he also lost to them last year as well. In fact, he was quite bad in the playoffs last year as he went 3-3 with a 3.76 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage.
There is no doubt that Andersen has put together three pretty solid regular seasons for this hockey club. During this span, he has won a lot of hockey games (107 games) and has been one of the main reasons why the team has even made the playoffs.
With that said, when it came down to the most important time of the season, he was not able to get it done. That's three years in which Andersen has not been good enough to get his team to the next round in order to give his club a shot at hockey's Holy Grail.
Andersen may not be the main problem for the Leafs, but when you have a guy that's caved under pressure, it is something that is certainly concerning.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.