TORONTO — Craig Anderson’s first moments in a Senators jersey were downright comical.
After obtaining him from the Colorado Avalanche, the team had sent a plane to Denver to fetch the 29-year-old goalie because a commercial flight wouldn’t get him to Ottawa in time to back up Robin Lehner in a game against the Boston Bruins.
Turns out the private jet didn’t either. Anderson arrived at Scotiabank Place and, while putting his gear on, noticed there were about nine minutes left in the first period. He finally scampered out to rinkside and tapped Pascal Leclaire on the shoulder, allowing his new pal to go back to the dressing room.
Players on the bench near where Anderson settled reached over to shake his hand and introduce themselves. He knew exactly nobody on his new team. One of the equipment guys tried to give him a cap for his shiny head, but there would be no fit.
“They were too big,” Anderson recalled with a laugh Saturday morning.
This was all captured on the SBP’s lousy centre-ice scoreboard, and when fans saw Ottawa’s new puck-stopper they cheered, causing the grin on Anderson’s face to grow.
“I guess if you could write a book about the behind-the-scenes stuff, that would go in it,” he said of the events on Friday. “I think for my sake it was a good experience. Something that’s going to be a good story down the road.”
Ottawa, originally dubbed the “Goalie Graveyard” by the TEAM 1200’s John Rodenburg, can only hope.
On the front page of this very fine newspaper, Anderson was referred to as the Senators’ new “saviour”. Told about it, he shuddered, then joked (“I’m sure my parents will be glad to see that”), then turned serious. “I don’t know if saviour is the right word,” said Anderson, who played his first game as a Senator Saturday night at the ACC. “It’s a team effort. There’s no ‘I’ in team.
“You can’t win games by yourself.”
What Anderson is going to have to win is the trust of his new teammates.
Anderson had that trust with Colorado in 2009-10, when he played 71 games and won 38, compiling a 2.63 GAA and spiffy .917 save percentage. But things changed this season.
For whatever reason — the odd-man rushes caused by young Avalanche forwards being caught up ice is a popular theory making the rounds — Anderson’s numbers dropped significantly.
“For me it’s about confidence,” he said.
He can lapse into cliches, but Anderson also has the ability to phrase things in an interesting manner. Almost like former baseball players Satchel Paige, Yogi Berra and Mickey Rivers. “I understand it’s a business,” he said of the game. “You go where you’re wanted, and not where you’re not wanted.”
He looks forward to settling into his new environment. And while his job puts millions in his pocket, he also has the perspective of someone who, with wife Nicole, is expecting his first child in July. “Pressure for me is to go out there and just play a kid’s game ... It’s not life or death.”
And Ottawa is not really a “Goalie Graveyard,” either. It’s just a place goalies’ careers have died.
SPEZZA HAS NEW BUTLER
Jason Spezza’s new triggerman had three goals in three games heading into Saturday night. “Definitely starting to feel some chemistry,” Spezza said of playing with Bobby Butler, the promoted Binghamton sniper.
Asked if Butler reminds him of anyone he’s played with before, he noted the former NCAA star is a pure shooter with a quick release who skates better than Brandon Bochenksi, a former Senators training camp wonder with similar qualities. He then mentioned Butler in the same breath as Dany Heatley, although we get that he wasn’t saying Ottawa is about to have a new 50-goal scorer in Butler.
“What I like about him is he’s got that ability to just kind of stand still in the slot,” said Spezza. “It’s a talent that I don’t think a lot of people realize you have to have. Heater did it great. You kind of stand there and everybody moves around you and you find yourself getting open. In this game, I think there’s a lot to be said about kind of standing still in the slot and having that patience.”
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Senators brass will spend the next two days watching Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog play in person. The feisty and talented Swede is a top prospect for the upcoming NHL draft and is now back playing after missing time with a high ankle sprain ... Daniel Alfredsson will be glad to know the fans at ACC still boo him even when he isn’t there. That was the reaction to the announcement the Senators captain was scratched from the lineup ... There were 14 NHL scouts in the building, two each from Pittsburgh and Phoenix ... The Senators did not put in a claim for Sheldon Souray, for those wondering ... Goalie Pascal Leclaire could be headed to Binghamton for a conditioning stint as early as next week.
“Challenges are what make good players good. For me, I just need to look forward, and try to do what I can do. And that’s control the controllables.
“I can’t control what’s outside of my control. When you start thinking that you want to change things, control situations that are out of your control, that’s when things kind of go sideways.
“For me it’s focusing on what I can do, getting back to just being who I am, and worry about things that I can worry about.”
— New Senators goalie Craig Anderson, NOT former Major League Baseball player Mickey Rivers.