Thursday night was a rough night for National Hockey League goaltenders as 78 goals were scored in the 11 games played. Not every goaltender struggled as we had some good performances in both Toronto and Columbus. Speaking of Toronto, a form Maple Leafs netminder is making his case to return to the NHL, Plus, one of the league’s most exciting teams is dealing with yet another key injury.
Andersen: A Steady Force in Toronto
There has been a lot of concern in Toronto the past few weeks as the overall play of the Maple Leafs has not been as good as some expected. Their struggles have even been pointed out by players like Alex Ovechkin and Drew Doughty, who know a thing or two about winning the Stanley Cup.
Things could be a lot worse for the Maple Leafs if it wasn’t for the play of goaltender Frederik Andersen. In his 13 games this season, he has a 2.69 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%). His nine wins are tied with Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights and David Rittich of the Calgary Flames for the most in the league.
He was back on his game with 37 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over the Golden Knights on Thursday night. 12 of those 37 saves came while the Maple Leafs where shorthanded, proving that your best penalty killer is often your goaltender. John Tavares won the game in overtime so the Maple Leafs avoided a shootout. Andersen had to make 10 saves in an 11-round shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers last Saturday.
“He’s been getting better just like each year. He kind of gets through October and seems to kick it into gear and gets feeling good,” said head coach Mike Babcock after another stellar performance. “He’s an important player for us, a good leader for us. We need him to make big saves.”
Ever since he was pulled from his Oct. 10 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Andersen has gone 7-0-2 with a .929 SV%.
Korpisalo Stands Tall in Arizona
Thursday night was a rough night for goaltenders across the NHL. One goaltender who had himself a nice night was Joonas Karpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He made 30 saves in a 3-2 victory at the Arizona Coyotes to snap the Blue Jackets’ five-game winless streak.
His biggest moments came when he stopped Michael Grabner on a pair of shorthanded breakaways. Grabner’s 22 shorthanded goals is second among all active NHL players, only Brad Marchand has more. However, Karpisalo wasn’t having any of it.
“I saw him coming there twice, but I’m just trying to help the team get points,” Korpisalo told reporters after the game. “That’s my part, I’ve got to save those two. I felt comfortable from the start and I felt it all the way through the game.”
This was the Blue Jackets’ first regulation win in the past 10 games, dating back to a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Oct. 16.
Grubauer Added to Avalanche’s Injury Woes
The Colorado Avalanche are one of the most exciting young teams in the NHL. They proved that when they went 7-0-1 to start the season. However, a rash of injuries have started to derail their early season momentum.
With the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen out for the foreseeable future, the Avalanche entered Thursday night’s game against the Nashville Predators on a five-game losing streak. To make matters worse, number one goaltender Philipp Grubauer missed the game with a lower-body injury and he is expected to miss the next couple of games.
Pavel Francouz, who was an AHL All-Star last season with the Colorado Eagles, inherited the starting role in Grubauer’s absence. He gave up four goals on 24 shots, but the offense bailed him with nine goals, including six in an eight-minute span during the second period.
The Avalanche got even more injury scares as both forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Nikita Zadorov never came out of the locker room for the third period. Head coach Jared Bednar told reporters after the game that MacKinnion was held out for precautionary reasons.
Sparks Getting it Done in Chicago
While there were no shutouts in the NHL on Thursday, we did get one from the lone game on the American Hockey League schedule. The Chicago Wolves picked up a huge 3-0 road win at the first-place Iowa Wild thanks to the efforts of goaltender Garret Sparks. The Wild outshot the Wolves 35-15, but they could not sneak one past Sparks.
The 26-year-old netminder has been splitting his time between the Wolves and the Golden Knights this season when Malcolm Subban was out due to injury. He spent all of the 2018-19 season with the Maple Leafs, serving as Andersen’s backup. While his lone start in the NHL this season was not a good one, he has been spectacular with the Wolves.
In his seven games, Sparks has a 1.55 GAA and .954 SV%, which both lead all qualified AHL goaltenders. He has earned shutouts in each of his last two starts and he has only allowed just four goals in his four wins on the season.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.