If casual NHL hockey fans hadn’t heard of Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen prior to the start of the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they have by now.
Entering the 2015 edition of the “Quest for the Cup”, the biggest question mark for Anaheim was the man between the pipes. Andersen quickly erased all doubts and now has his team poised to bring hockey’s holy grail back to Orange County.
Despite a stellar regular season in which Andersen posted career highs in wins (35), shutouts (3) and minutes played, the 25 year-old Dane still had much to prove to both experts and fans alike.
Coming on the heels of a third consecutive Pacific Division crown and a top seed in the Western Conference, the Ducks and Andersen had the pressure of past playoff failures to contend with.
There were doubters, plenty of them too. All pointing to “Freddie’s” miserable playoff performance last season that culminated with the Ducks again failing to get past the second round for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.
In his seven playoff appearances in 2013-14, Andersen won only three times while posting a dismal .899 save percentage and a bloated 3.10 goals against. It was another unsatisfactory ending to a season full of high hopes.
So yes there were doubters and with good reason.
Fast forward to today.
The Ducks lead the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final and most of Anaheim’s success can be attributed directly to the unflappable and virtually unbeatable Freddie Andersen.
Through 12 games, Andersen is 10-2 with a beefy .935 save percentage and a miniscule 1.75 goals against. Sprinkle in a shutout and top that with the knowledge that neither of the two losses came in regulation, including a triple-overtime masterpiece in game two of the West Final and you begin to see the imagine of a budding star come into focus.
One of Andersen’s biggest cheerleaders has been Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. After watching his young goalie catapult from a quiet rookie to a starting job in his second year in the league, Boudreau is all in on his goalie.
So what does Bruce attribute Andersen’s new found success to?
“I think he’s embraced it and come a long way. He’s another year older, he knows what to expect of himself and he’s not afraid of the league.”
The turnaround for Andersen goes beyond his MVP-like numbers. It has more to do with a level of maturity that has manifested into a cerebral, focused and almost Zen-like demeanor. No longer do the Ducks have to worry about the man behind the mask bending before finally breaking. That is a luxury this franchise hasn’t fully enjoyed since the days of J.S. Giguere. It’s hard not to be impressed by Andersen’s ability to shake-off a bad goal or weather a furious barrage of top-notch scoring chances long enough for his team to claw, fight and scrap their way back into games. Just ask the the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames and now Chicago.
Andersen sits just six wins away from becoming a champion and solidifying himself amongst the leagues elite net minders. And if you were one of those people that didn’t know his name before, you do now.