Toronto's Last Line of Defense
Frederik Andersen is the backbone of a Toronto Maple Leafs team that places a lot of pressure on its goaltender to be firm. Toronto allows 33.2 shots per game which is fifth worst in the league. There are many times where Andersen faces odd-man rushes when he probably shouldn’t have to, and what makes this job even more daunting is that the Leafs’ goalie is often on a hot seat few others are placed on.
Toronto is a media market like Montreal where everyone eats, drinks, and sleeps hockey. So, when a Leafs goalie looks even remotely human, like in Andersen’s last two starts (eight goals allowed on 33 shots), the media and fans alike get a little restless. This is even more accentuated by the fact that the Maple Leafs are expected to advance deeper into the playoffs this year than those prior.
Toronto’s starting goaltender carries a 2.68 goals-against average (at press time) with a .920 save percentage. Considering his record is 33-14-4, there should be few complains. In a day and age where most goalies only start around 55 games, Andersen plays 65+. Stats like these are one of the reasons Frederik Andersen is one of the best goalies to own in fantasy hockey leagues (according to Goalie Post). Add on top his durability, his high amount of shots saved, and number of wins, Andersen shows he’s still incredibly valuable to Toronto.
For as good as Andersen has been throughout his career, this season has been his best from a statistical standpoint. He is on pace for close to 40 wins. Also, his quality start percentage is 65.4, which is a career high. Furthermore, his goals saved above average is 19.2, which is well above his previous career high of 12.06. Furthermore, when Andersen doesn’t play, Toronto’s goals against jumps up by more than 1/3 of a goal per game, and this is also off less of a shot load.
Despite these impressive stats, that’s not to say that Andersen doesn’t have weaknesses amongst the career highs he’s putting up. The Toronto goalie has a mere .851 save percentage on the penalty kill (slightly below the league average of .870), although this is counteracted by his gaudy .931 save percentage at even strength.
Another concern is his high-danger .822 save percentage which seems to come up every playoff. It’s also interesting to note that Andersen’s average goal allowed is from 20.31 feet which is one of the closest distances in the league. His numbers improve when one looks at medium danger chances. Among goalies who allow 300+ medium-danger shots, Andersen is third in the league with a .930 save percentage. His 383 shots faced from that range is higher than anyone else in the league by over 30.
After that, there is low danger save percentage. Andersen ranks third among starters with a .985 save percentage. Overall, the Toronto goalie sees a ton of shots and provided he manages his rebounds, Andersen thrives and does well. When there are too many high-danger chances, the goalie predictably has a problem. It is why teams like Tampa Bay and Toronto give him the most trouble. It was also Chicago in 2015 that pulled this off as well.
With the season now in its later stages, Andersen has seen his numbers drop, which has now been the case around this time for the past few seasons. Now 29, Andersen is more than mature enough to take the inevitable heat from the media and fans clamoring about his numbers. He usually bounces right back just before the playoffs.
This year the pressure will be all the more, as there’s a different feel amongst the Toronto fans. The Atlantic gauntlet is tough, but they think Andersen is the one to carry them to the Conference Final and beyond. In order to do so, Andersen must be the last line of defense the rest of the season and in into the playoffs. Without him at the top of his game, Toronto’s odds of survival in the second season are slim at best.
By Chris Wassel