The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped their two-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. Toronto’s win came after miserable collapses against North Division rivals Ottawa and Montreal. The role Frederik Andersen played in Toronto’s historic capitulation against the Senators has been among the main talking points of the week.
Reaction to the goalie’s performance in the Leafs 6-5 overtime defeat on Monday reflects the seven stages of grief, with Toronto fans gradually moving from point to point.
Frederik Andersen has been a divisive figure at the Scotiabank Arena of late, but what does his play in 2021 actually mean?
Frederik Andersen’s seven stages of grief
Andersen joined the Maple Leafs on 20 June 2016, ending his association with the Anaheim Ducks. At the time, he was 11 days away from becoming a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and was traded for the 30th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a second-round pick the year after.
The Dane started slowly in Toronto but rebounded to secure a 33-16-14 regular-season record in his debut year in blue and white. It was enough to win the Leafs a place in the post-season, where they lost in round one to the Washington Capitals.
Andersen holds a career save percentage of .916 and concedes – on average – 2.63 goals per game, per Hockey Reference.
Through his fifteen appearances this year, Frederik Andersen achieved a season-high save percentage in game 11 against the Canucks. Andersen’s .969 save rate was important in Toronto’s win. Andersen’s worst performances of the year have both came against Ottawa, where he fell to .792 and .806 save percentages.
Perhaps, though, there are some mitigating circumstances. Andersen has played 10 consecutive games since Jack Campbell was injured and Toronto’s skaters made a litany of errors against Ottawa. John Tavares was sloppy on the puck and was partly responsible for the Senators’ revival. Jimmy Vessey has been a dead-weight on the third line.
Andersen isn’t the only factor when Toronto are beaten. Ultimately, the question is to what extent is Frederik Andersen culpable? The seven stages of grief tell a story.
Shock in Toronto:
As the rest of North America laughed tirelessly at Toronto’s collapse, Maple Leafs supporters were left shocked by Toronto’s defeat against Ottawa. According to The Athletic, the Leafs had a 99.9122 percent chance of winning after taking a four-goal lead on Monday.
In the immediate aftermath, shock swept the country as viewers collectively asked: ‘why didn’t he just make one save?’
Andersen, though, made seven stops from 10 shots in the final period – which obviously wasn’t enough to prevent Toronto’s eventual loss. An eighth save would have changed the result – but should Andersen have faced 10 final period shots against the worst team in the North?
No – but the result marks a shocking breakdown in Toronto’s defensive play.
Denial and Andersen:
The next stage of grief is denial. Members of the Freddy Andersen Fan Club © quickly rallied to suggest that the Dane was not at fault for Toronto’s loss.
Charges of that nature were incorrect.
Andersen’s pointless breakout pass with 20 seconds remaining in the second period cost Toronto their second goal of the night and started the Senators’ resurgence. Andersen was blameworthy – but was he the main culprit?
Guilt and chances:
Andersen, as noted, is guilty of making mistakes against Ottawa.
But are fans culpable for expecting too much from the 87th overall pick of 2012? Throughout his career, Andersen has blown hot and cold. One day, the Dane is unbeatable. 24 hours later, he can look like fish out of water.
Through his third-to-tenth appearances of the year, Andersen upheld a .919 save percentage. At even strength, the goaltender’s record improved to .946. Andersen is a goalie who can go from hero to zero very quickly.
At $5,000,000 cap hit per year, Toronto should have a very good NHL goalie. In reality, Andersen skates around the mean. Especially in the playoffs, Andersen just hasn’t proved himself able to be a difference-maker on a regular basis. It’s who he is.
Anger at Frederik Andersen:
Anger spread like wildfire on Monday night. The most common knee-jerk reaction to Andersen’s performance was to demand he was traded away from Toronto.
Realistically, Andersen is going nowhere this season. It doesn’t make sense for a playoff-contending team to trade for Andersen (if it did, Toronto would want to keep him). Likewise, franchises in rebuild mode have no reason to reconstruct their roster for the sake of an ‘underperforming’ 31-year-old goalie.
Like it or lump it, Andersen is seeing out his contract in Toronto.
Reflection on mistakes:
In his post-match report card, Joshua Kloke wrote:
“Andersen has now allowed five goals or more in both games against the Senators this season. Some of the goals were not on him, but a big save late in the game probably would have done a lot to swing the momentum back in the Leafs’ favour. It just never felt like he was in control tonight.” Resulting in Andersen being awarded a D-grade.
It was undeniably a bad night for the former Duck and a period of reflection began in earnest.
Reconstruction of the game:
And then came the second of three-straight games against the Senators. In the build-up, there was chatter that Andersen would be rested. Sheldon Keefe’s only alternative to Andersen is the much-maligned Michael Hutchinson.
As a result, Andersen kept his place in the team and was handed the opportunity to make amends for his performance on Monday. Reconstruction occurred.
Acceptance of Andersen:
And now, following Toronto’s 2-1 win over the Senators, acceptance has arrived.
Andersen made 28 saves on 29 shots, keeping the Leafs in the game even when the Senators enjoyed the lion’s share of high-quality chances. It was a 1st-star performance from Andersen, just 72 hours after he contributed to Toronto’s earth-shattering loss.
This is it. Frederik Andersen can be great, average, or terrible. He isn’t a $5,000,000 goalie and won’t be following the expiration of his contract in the summer. For now, though, Andersen is the best the Leafs have got; it’s time to accept that fact.