To say that this season is off to a bit of a confusing start for Ottawa Senators fans may be an understatement. The team is winning and, with a 14-8-1 record, currently sits 2nd in the Atlantic Division and 6th overall in the league. But somehow, they have a negative goal differential and have struggled in the scoring department. But one thing remains constant for the Sens, the outstanding play of Craig Anderson.
Full disclosure: Most of the ensuing article leaves out Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo. We are all allowed bad days at work, and that’s just what it was for Anderson.
Much like the rest of his tenure here, Anderson has been one of Ottawa’s best players so far this season. Before the Buffalo game, his record was 12-4-1, with a 2.03 GAA and a .936 SV%. He is also coming off one of the most successful weeks in his career, which involved him being named the NHL’s first star of the week. It’s the second time this season that he received the league’s weekly honour, and it was very much deserved.
Anderson registered an impressive 4-0-0 record last week, facing over 30 shots in three of those games. He capped things off by shutting out the New York Rangers on Sunday, one of the highest scoring teams in the league at the moment.
Adding to his list of accolades for this season, Anderson is also 4th overall among NHL goalies in shutouts, with three so far this season. He’s also tied for 2nd in wins for goalies, with 12, behind only Carey Price, who has 13.
While his play has been impressive so far this season, it’s nothing new for Anderson. Since joining the Ottawa Senators in 2011, he has consistently been a difference maker on this team, despite the inconsistency of players in front of him.
In his almost seven seasons with the Sens, Anderson’s SV% has never dropped below .900. The lowest it’s been was .911 in 2013-14, when the team didn’t make the playoffs and he faced over 1,600 shots throughout the season.
Shots against has been somewhat of a sensitive area for the Sens during Anderson’s time here. He has faced over 1,900 shots in two separate seasons (2011-12 and 2015-16). In fact, since Anderson became a member of the Senators, the team has fallen within the top 10 in shots allowed per game every year. They were even in the top three in this category three times. So despite the Senators allowing more shots per game than the majority of teams in the league, Anderson still remained one of their best players.
In 2015-16, the Sens allowed more shots per game (on average) than any other team in the league. Anderson faced 1,915 shots that season, and yet finished with a record of 31-25-5, with a 2.78 GAA and .916 SV%. He even set a franchise record that year for most saves in one season, with 1,754. In a very unsuccessful season for the team, Anderson still put up respectable numbers.
Among the goalie talk in the NHL, Anderson’s name isn’t mentioned as often as it should be. We talk about Carey Price, Tuuka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist, but Anderson’s name is rarely mentioned among the best in the league. Sure, he may not be the best goalie in the world, and it’s hard to stand out when you’re playing in the same league as Price. But Anderson has, year in and year out, been one of the most underrated goalies in the league. He has always made a significant impact for his team, helping them win games they had no business winning. Maybe it’s time we start putting him in that conversation.
The Senators have started improving their defensive play this season, moving to 10th overall in the league in shots against per game (a much-needed improvement). They’ve also been a little more responsible in their own end, allowing Anderson to make only a few game-saving saves per night, instead of dozens. But there are still going to be games where they need him, and it looks like he’ll be up for the challenge.
We’re all aware of Anderson’s personal situation, and he is expected to miss a few games in the coming weeks to be with his family while his wife undergoes treatment. Fans, players and management have been (of course) very supportive, and are all hoping for the best going forward.
One thing we can hope for is that Anderson knows how much this organization values him. There is a lot of uncertainly surrounding the future of Ottawa’s goalie situation, with the expansion draft coming up and the team’s recent moves in this position. But one thing is for sure right now, Craig Anderson is an extremely important, and often underrated, part of this team. We are very lucky to have him.