A full night of NHL action on Thursday gives us plenty of stories to talk about, but we’ll focus on two goalies seemingly headed in different directions.
Andersen in Trouble?
There’s no question that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen is one of the best goalies in the NHL. Or at least there wasn’t a question before the rocky start he’s had to his season. The Maple Leafs are 2-2-1, and Andersen’s play hasn’t helped.
Although four games is a criminally small sample size, Andersen has not looked good. He’s struggled to establish himself behind a massively overhauled Toronto defense, allowing 14 goals on 113 shots, good (or bad) for an .876 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.75 goals against average (GAA).
Those numbers were severely altered by a 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. While the defense struggled, Andersen didn’t help much, either. The first goal came on a poorly-controlled rebound, he was beat twice on a clean one-timer, and the final goal came after he fumbled a puck and turned it over to the opponent. Head coach Mike Babcock pulled Andersen after that seventh goal.
Andersen was quick to accept his share of the blame after the game, but the Maple Leafs need more than words right now. The team entered the season as a top contender and can score as well as any team in the league; however, none of that will matter if their starting goalie continues to struggle.
With Michael Hutchinson behind him, there’s no road forward for the Maple Leafs without a much-improved Andersen. But the Danish netminder has been as consistent as anyone in the league over the last several seasons, so there’s no reason to panic yet. Four games are not enough to judge by, and history suggests that Andersen is as reliable as goalies come. He should get things turned around.
Kuemper’s Impressive Streak
Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes was one of the NHL’s best-kept secrets last season. He stepped right into the spot vacated by Antti Raanta and posted some of the best numbers in the league, with a .925 SV% and a 2.33 GAA in 55 starts.
So far in the 2019-20 season, it looks like Kuemper is picking up right where he left on. With their 4-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, Kuemper became the first Coyotes goalie to go 10 straight starts allowing two goals or fewer since Sean Burke achieved the feat in the year 2000.
So far, the Coyotes have not scored enough to support Kuemper’s strong play. The team is just 1-2 on the young season and had just one goal in their first two games. Kuemper will look to continue his run of form against the high-scoring Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
Looking Clean, Mr. McLean
When you think of Vancouver Canucks goalies, most minds race to the great Roberto Luongo. But Kirk McLean, the team’s goalie for most of the 1990s, actually holds many of the franchise records. And last night, for the first time since he retired 17 years ago, the netminder was back on the ice in Vancouver in full gear.
Now that’s a sharp-dressed goaler. McLean wore the Canucks’ vintage “flying skate” sweater that they brought back this season and skated out in the pregame ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the team. The veteran of 612 NHL games has tried his hand at coaching, broadcasting, and even restauranteering since retiring, and he was deservingly inducted into British Columbia’s Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.
As sharp as McLean looked, the modern-day Canucks looked even sharper. They took the ice and took home an 8-2 victory over their rival Los Angeles Kings. It was also the night the franchise appointed Bo Horvat its first captain since Henrik Sedin retired. Though they are just 1-2 on the young season, the future looks very bright for the Canucks; almost as bright as those gorgeous vintage sweaters.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.