Welcome back to our Year in Review feature at SilverSevenSens, where we re-visit the past season for key members of the Ottawa Senators. We’ve previously profiled the following players:
Evgeni Dadonov (no longer a Senator!)
Today we pivot to the crease with a season recap featuring a player you definitely remember plays for the Ottawa Senators. Look, no one signs up for back-up goaltending duty expecting fame and glamour. It takes a special kind of personality to live the lifestyle that comes with the job so I salute the likes of Anton Forsberg who take all the heat of a starting goaltender without any of the potential accolades. With that in mind, let’s unpack what we can from Forsberg’s very limited audition in Ottawa.
By the Numbers
First and foremost, Forsberg only played parts of eight games (under 450 minutes in all situations) this season (all with Ottawa) and we really can’t conclude too much from such a small sample size. With that in mind, we’ll work with the numbers available to attempt to paint a picture of Forsberg as a Senator. Forsberg played the second fewest minutes of Ottawa’s netminders (Joey Daccord played the fewest due to a season-ending injury) and although he didn’t have much internal competition, Forsberg can brag about finishing second on the team in all situation save percentage at 90.9 behind only Filip Gustavsson. Forsberg also finished second on the team in goals saved above average per 60 at 0.38 in all situations.
In terms of quality of goaltending, Forsberg had the best high difficulty save percentage in Ottawa at 88.1 (all situations again) despite facing the most shots per 60 of any Ottawa goalie at over 35(!) on a nightly basis, yikes. Among the Sens’ netminders, Forsberg spent the third most time short-handed per 60 and again faced the most volume at 73.32 shots against per 60 on the penalty kill. Despite those intimidating rates, Forsberg had the best short handed save percentage in Ottawa this season at 90.2, the best goals saved above average on the penalty kill at 3.12, and the best high difficulty save percentage at 93.8 (again small sample size noted).
Both on the penalty kill (12.52) and in all situations (4.41), Forsberg faced the most rebound attempts per 60 of Ottawa’s goaltenders and I have to wonder whether this results from seeing the most total volume as noted above (indicating that the Senators played worse defensively in front of Forsberg) or if Forsberg has an issue with rebounds. Looking back at the data from the past three seasons, I think both may have factored in. Over the past three seasons, Forsberg ranks ninth worst among NHL goalies in rebound attempts against per 60 so he should take some responsibility but Craig Anderson and Marcus Hogberg also rank in the bottom twenty so Ottawa’s defence also probably needs to clean that up.
Story of the Season
Even in a 2021 season when lots of players had their ups and downs, Forsberg may have had the most unconventional. Edmonton signed Forsberg in the offseason and waived him so Carolina claimed him only to waive him, Winnipeg subsequently claimed Forsberg only to place him on waivers, and Ottawa ultimately claimed Forsberg who finished his season in the nation’s capital. Forsberg didn’t play a single game for any of those three teams, never made it through waivers to the taxi squad or AHL, and didn’t play in Europe during the pre-season, so I tip my hat because he came into Ottawa without much visible rust in his game. As fans well remember, Matt Murray and Hogberg had their struggles early in the 2021 season before injuries took their toll. Ottawa had internal options in Daccord and Gustavsson but Daccord also sustained a serious injury and the staff didn’t feel the need to throw 22-year-old Gustavsson to the proverbial wolves, thus claiming Forsberg.
As discussed in the last section, Forsberg put up respectable, unspectacular numbers as Ottawa’s fourth or fifth goalie in the depth chart, getting the Sens to overtime in his first start, winning his second start, and then going on a four-game personal losing streak before ending the season with two wins and a loss in his last three games. Ending the season on an especially sour note, Forsberg got pulled in his last start after allowing four goals in Calgary. For all his hard work, however, the Senators signed Forsberg to a one-year extension at $900K (although some could conject this had to do with an expansion draft strategy) and assuming everyone leaves camp in good health, he’ll back up Matt Murray in 2021-22.
Now with his sixth NHL franchise (having actually played for four of them) and having only played full-time during his 2017-18 season in Chicago, Forsberg has seemingly solidified his role as an NHL back-up and a pretty solid one at that. Forsberg put up sterling numbers at every stop of his AHL career and belongs at the highest level, even if only backing up or splitting the crease. I would like to see what Forsberg could accomplish if he cleans up his rebounds a bit as he excels in the most difficult circumstances (high danger chances against and on the penalty kill) and therefore has the tools to succeed without yet showing the results regularly in the NHL.
I have a hard time seeing Forsberg in Ottawa past this season with Murray’s hefty contract on the books and all of Gustavsson, Kevin Mandolese, Mads Søgaard, and Leevi Meriläinen in the prospect pipeline competing for professional ice time. For a complicated season when Ottawa dealt with a lot of mediocrity and injuries in the net, Forsberg held his own and insulated Ottawa’s prospects even though it doesn’t feel like too long ago that he himself looked like a top goaltending prospect in Columbus. Stay tuned for the rest of the goalies and defenders, folks. And finally, in parting I have but one question, what’s the deal with the horny dog, seriously?
Stats courtesy of naturalstattrick