When reviewing how well the Ottawa Senators’ goalies played last season, it’s important to note that the 2019-20 team was in the middle of a rebuilding season. As a result, it wasn’t expected that they would have statistically great seasons — for the most part, they didn’t.
Being a Goalie on a Rebuilding Team
Being a goalie is tough when your team is losing more games than it’s winning and the goalie is the last line of defense when players make mistakes up ice.
That’s the nature of rebuilding teams — they make mistakes. In addition, when your team’s talent can’t match the talent most other teams can ice, you’ll lose more than you’ll win. That was exactly the case for the Senators’ goalies this season. The Senators were out-talented most games.
Reviewing the Senators’ Goalies
Although there are quality goalie prospects in the system, they’re still a few years away from making the roster. That left aging veteran Craig Anderson, Anders Nilsson, and perhaps Senators goalie-of-the-future Marcus Hogberg splitting time in the net for the team.
Because the Senators’ regular season has ended and the team won’t be one of 24 moving into postseason play, let’s review how the goalies fared over the course of the 2019-20 season?
Anders Nilsson’s Season
On Dec. 16, Nilsson suffered an “illness” that turned out to be something more serious. It’s unclear the team’s medical staff knew what was happening because there was still hope in mid-January that Nilsson would return. In fact, he suited up and faced shots in practice on New Year’s Day.
Although Nilsson continued to rehab, it didn’t take long before his season was shut down when he was placed on injured reserve. As it turned out, he had suffered a concussion on Dec. 16 and he was never able to return from that injury — his season was over.
In mid-February, Nilsson took part in practice for the first time in months. Perhaps if the season hadn’t ended with the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have seen Nilsson again. However, that wasn’t to be.
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When assessing his season, it wasn’t that Nilsson didn’t play well when he played. It was more that he simply was unable to play. With him out of the lineup, Senators head coach D.J. Smith was forced to bring up the rookie Hogberg and rotate him with Anderson in goal.
Marcus Hogberg’s Season
During the 2019-20 season, Hogberg played 24 games. His record at season’s end was 5-8-8, a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.12 and a 0.904 save percentage (SV%). Really, those aren’t bad numbers for a rookie. In fact, by mid-season, Hogberg became as much Smith’s choice as his only option.
Hogberg won only one of his first eight games and it seemed to take him a long time to record his first NHL win; however, as the season progressed, he got stronger the more he played.
He is still young at 25 years of age, but he’s a pro-type goalie at 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds. During this season, his skills in the crease improved. As noted, because the Senators were rebuilding the team’s goalies had to stand tall, and Hogberg played well.
His record is an odd one. He recorded as many overtime losses as regulation losses. That means he held his team in games and gained points in 13 of the 21 games in which he had a decision. That’s good for the team.
Next season, Hogberg’s on a one-way contract and will likely be the starter. We’re assuming that Nilsson’s concussion is better and that Anderson won’t stay with the team. Anderson’s contract expires after this season. As a result, with Nilsson and Hogberg, for the Senators, it looks to be an all-Swedish tandem in goal.
Craig Anderson’s Season
First, it would be wrong not to acknowledge Anderson’s contribution to the Senators historically. On May 6, 2020, when the All-Time Ottawa Senators Team was named as part of TSN’s Hockey’s All-Time 7 Project, Anderson was one of two goalies named as the team’s all-time greatest. (The other was goalie Alec Connell who played from 1925-28.) But, during the modern era with the Senators’ second edition, Anderson has been the best.
Anderson currently holds the Senators’ franchise records for goalie games played and wins. During this season, Anderson played 34 games and recorded an 11-17-2 record with a 3.25 GAA and a 0.902 SV%. Most hockey pundits believe it will be Anderson’s last season with the Senators.
In truth, he’s likely to retire. I can’t imagine him moving to another team, although who knows for certain. However, given all he and his family have been through in Canada (his wife beat cancer a few years ago), I’m guessing that, although Anderson’s a US citizen, he considers Ottawa home.
I could imagine him signing a team-friendly one-year contract if he’s asked, but likely retirement is on the way. From the perspective of history, he’s had a great career with the Senators.
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This season, because of Nilsson’s concussion, Anderson probably had a much larger workload than most expected. Although the season wasn’t his best, he was stable and consistent in the net. He’s a veteran who played well enough during a season when everyone knew the team was rebuilding.
Looking at the Senators’ Goalies This Season
It was a tough season for everyone in Ottawa, including the goalies. That said, there was growth in net with Hogberg. Another goalie might rise through the Senators’ system to supplant him in the long-term future, but he’ll likely get a chance to prove his worth next season.
It’s time for Anderson to pass the torch. We wish him well wherever he lands and whatever he does.