It is very difficult for a team to have sustained success without a good goaltender. Without one, teams are unlikely to make it far in their chase for the Stanley Cup. Luckily for the Toronto Maple Leafs, they have Frederik Andersen.
Andersen has been Toronto’s starting goalie for the last three seasons. Since being traded from the Anaheim Ducks, he has been incredibly sturdy for the team and 2018-19 was no exception. Here we will focus on Andersen’s most recent season.
Peaks and Valleys
When things were going right for Andersen it appeared he was a strong candidate for a Vezina nomination. When they weren’t there did not appear to be anything he could do to stop a puck. At his best, he was perhaps Toronto’s best player but then at his worst, he was well below average.
Thankfully for the Maple Leafs, things went right more often than not for Andersen in 2018-19. He had a 20-9-1 record and a .923 save percentage through his first 30 games. His play was impeccable. Even more impressive was Andersen playing so well despite Toronto’s subpar defence.
Had he continued on this pace, he would have been a clear candidate for the Vezina Trophy. However, Andersen’s season ended far worse than he would have liked. On March 11, he started a stretch of poor play that lasted until the end of the season. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, this corresponded with the overall poor performance of the team.
In his final ten games, Andersen posted a 3-3-3 record and a .881 save percentage. This ten-game stretch effectively took him out of any serious Vezina consideration. He finished tenth in voting for the award.
Wear and Tear
One of the first things you will notice when looking at any Andersen stat page is his games played. In just three seasons with the Maple Leafs, he has played an alarming 192 games. He is tied with Devan Dubnyk for the most games-started by a goalie over the last three seasons. His busy season led him to choose to forgo the World Championship in favour of resting his body.
He has made the best of his situation, as he finished the 2018-19 season with a .917 save percentage. However, there were reasons to be concerned about Andersen’s workload last season. This lead to questions being asked about head coach Mike Babcock’s decision tooveruse his starting goalie.
The Maple Leafs did not have any great options at backup. Garret Sparks failed to impress last season, putting up an 8-9-1 record and a .902 save percentage. The uncertainty around Sparks added to the reasons for Babcock to continuously start Andersen. However, playing 60 games in an injury-shortened season did him no favours.
He finished in seventh place in games played by a goalie last season. The only time for rest he received wasduring his mid-season injury. Andersen played 60 games and would have played more had he not suffered an injury in December. Following the Maple Leafs win over the New York Rangers on Dec. 22, he missed the next three weeks with a groin injury.
It may not be his fault, but Andersen’s excessive workload played a large role in the negative points of his season. Had his playing time been managed differently, it is possible that he could have avoided his injury and his late-season poor play.
Overall Grade: B+
Finishing tenth in Vezina Trophy voting is nothing to shake a fist at. While Andersen may have had difficult stretches in 2018-19, his season should be remembered fondly. At times he was the Maple Leafs best player and that is no small feat.
Andersen still has the tools to continue to improve. Some are theorizing that next season could finally be the year that he reaches his Vezina Trophy potential. For that to happen, Toronto will likely have to change the way they approach his workload because if history has shown us anything it’s that such performances are very difficult to maintain.
Brian Joyce is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Sport Media program. For better or worse, Brian is a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan. In addition to hockey, Brian also enjoys watching baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse and pro wrestling. Brian also works as an editor for WrestleTalk.com and as a digital content producer for Chikara Pro Wrestling.