Throughout his tenure as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen has battled questions about his longevity.
Whether it’s stretches in a season where he underperformed, the intense workload he faced in previous years without a reliable backup or the many injuries he sustained in between, the Danish netminder’s resilience was always the selling point.
“I think if you go back through each season, anytime with Fred (where he) has found himself in a bit of a rut per se, he’s been able to pull himself out of it,” Dubas said on Tuesday. “And that’s the expectations of what we’ll see from him as we move ahead.”
With four off days between games and a chance to push the reset button amidst a stretch of losses, Andersen allowed two goals on the first four shots faced in a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Friday.
The story was the same as it has been since he returned from a lower-body injury on Mar. 3. Andersen wasn’t necessarily at fault for the majority of the goals allowed, but he didn’t make the timely save his team needed, either.
Of Calgary’s four goals, three of them were scored through a sea of humanity.
“It’s difficult on a night like tonight where everything seems to kind of find a way through traffic,” Andersen said. “I know, personally, I didn’t lose my abilities and same goes for the team, too.”
Toronto fell to 1-6-0 in its last seven games. Andersen’s four goals allowed on 18 shots pushed his save percentage to .897 for the season, a new career-low.
There was the disclosure this week that the goaltender hasn’t felt 100 percent since his return from a lower-body injury. Toronto had just completed a stretch where they played 16 games in 30 days. It’s fair that fatigue could have played a role in Andersen’s recent malaise.
But with a five-day break in the schedule, Andersen being overworked doesn’t explain Friday’s performance. Each of Andersen’s games on its own doesn’t get scrutinized but they start to add up. He has to be a difference make in some of these games and he hasn’t been over the latest stretch of games.
With his backup, Jack Campbell, ready to return from a leg injury, Andersen is on the brink of losing the starter’s position at the worst possible time.
“He’s played great for us, so I know he’s a guy who goes in with a ton of confidence,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Campbell. “He’s worked real hard to get himself ready and we’re certainly expecting a great and competitive effort from him.”
Campbell is 3-0-0 this season with a .951 save percentage. Acquired in a trade last season with the Los Angeles Kings, Toronto had planned to use their backup more frequently this season. But his injury limited him to one game in the previous two months.
Should Campbell build off his 30-save shutout performance against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 27, only an injury (not an unlikely occurrence given his season) might keep him away from the net.
Campbell’s contract runs until the end of the 2021-22 season at an average annual value of $1.65 million.
Andersen is in the final year of a five-year, $25 million contract with the Leafs. At a time where he needs to be at his best, his play as of late tells a tale of a declining asset who is going through a crisis of confidence.
“It’s just a matter of putting it together,” Andersen said. “I think it starts by me looking inward and doing what I can do to play my best and help the team.”
Down by a goal going into the third period, Toronto dominated the possession battle by firing 25 shot attempts in the final frame compared to just six by Calgary.
One of those attempts came when Auston Matthews who beat Flames goaltender Jakob Markstrom, but then hit the post.
Apart from that chance, Calgary kept Toronto to the perimeter. The Leafs had just two slot shot on goal in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought Calgary did a good job of clogging in the middle,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I thought we had a lot of offensive-zone time and a lot of shots directed at the net.”
Simmonds made his return to the lineup after missing seven weeks with a fractured wrist.
Alex Galchenyuk was on the ice for Toronto’s first two goals against in his team debut, but he wasn’t the culprit behind the mistakes.
“I think he skated real well and forechecked real well,” Keefe said of Galchenyuk. “He looked like he was hungry, had good legs so I was encouraged with what I saw from him.”
Galchenyuk logged 11:19 of ice time.
Toronto surrendered a power-play goal for the sixth time in their seven games and it stood up as the game-winner. Toronto went 0-for-3 with the man advantage and have gone a season-high four games without a power-play goal.