One for Senators books

Senators goalie Craig Anderson (L) searches for the puck under Toronto Maple Leafs Tim Brent and...

Senators goalie Craig Anderson (L) searches for the puck under Toronto Maple Leafs Tim Brent and Jay Rosehill (C) in the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto February 19, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

OTTAWA - So, Craig Anderson, exactly what do you do for an encore?

“How many times do we come back here?” the new Senators goalie replied after a 47-save shutout in his debut Saturday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

None, he was told.

“I guess you guys won’t be seeing it then, on this side of Ontario,” Anderson said, grinning.

Turns out such a show has never been seen before, either.

Anderson’s performance in a 1-0 victory over the Maple Leafs wasn’t just the best by an Ottawa goalie this season. (Pascal Leclaire has the team’s only other shutout, but he just needed to make 31 saves.

No, what witnesses watched in the latest Battle of Ontario was the best regular-season game by a Senators goalie ever.

(Leclaire saved 56 shots in a triple-overtime playoff win over the Penguins last spring.)

The team regular-season record book shows the previous most number of saves was 47, held by three different goals, the most recent being Mike Bales in a 4-3 loss to Boston Nov. 9, 1995. But while he’ll only be credited with a share of the win, Anderson actually made 49 saves, including two in the shootout. (The third Leaf attempt, by Nikolai Kulemin, went wide.)

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Anderson is only the fourth goalie since NHL expansion to record a shutout in his first game with a team while facing at least 40 shots. The others were the Bruins’ Andre Gill in December, 1967, the North Stars’ Markus Mattsson in January, 1983 and the Canucks’ Mike Fountain in November, 1996 — none of whom had to go beyond regulation time.

It wasn’t just the number of stops Anderson made, but also the poise and control with which he played. Anderson was constantly directing traffic in the Ottawa zone, obviously in complete and total command. When was the last time you saw a Senators goalie exude such confidence?

“He played an unbelievable game,” said Chris Neil.

Bryan Murray used the word outstanding.

“I mentioned to him after the game that if he did that every night, we’d be very happy with him,” said the GM. “He was poised. He was in position. He stood up and caught pucks. I thought he made probably four or five outstanding stops along with just the normal good stop that he made.”

Yes, of course, it’s just one game. Everyone realizes that. And unless the Senators are worried about losing ground in their race to the bottom of the NHL’s overall standings, Anderson will get the chance to come crashing down to earth Wednesday, when the Senators host his former team, the Florida Panthers.

Keep in mind, however, that he has also had some shining moments at Scotiabank Place. The record for most saves in one period at SBP? It’s 26, established by Anderson on Oct. 22, 2008.

“I think I do better with a few more shots,” said Anderson. “It all depends on the quality. Sometimes games when you only see 20-25 shots, there’s a lot of chances that are high quality, and your stats don’t look as good as they should. But it’s all about the W’s. 

“Statistics are like bikinis,” he added. “They show a little bit, but they don’t show everything.”

Making his game against Toronto even more impressive is the whirlwind 36 hours he had leading into it. On Friday morning, he found out he was traded by Colorado to Ottawa. He said goodbye to his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, and was jetted halfway across the continent to get to his team, on which he knew nobody. Later that same day, he was on a plane to Toronto, checking into a hotel at 2 a.m. And 17 hours after that, he was taking centre stage on Hockey Night in Canada. 

“You just try to stay fresh, keep a good mindset, get yourself prepared,” said Anderson, denying that fatigue was an issue. “I got a good warmup in before the game, off the ice, getting the blood flow going. It’s just getting mentally prepared. It’s a mental game now. The physical part just takes care of itself.”

Shootout confidence

Of his new teammates and situation, Anderson said: “There’s 20 new guys in here that are great guys and are ready to learn, and grow as a team. That’s what it’s all about here. Growing together as a team ... and finding a way to make 20 new friends here like I did in Colorado.”

Performances like Saturday’s is a good way. 

The Senators have been terrible on shootouts this season, losing all four they were in previously while scoring on just one of 11 attempts. Part of the problem might have been Brian Elliott, who Murray traded for Anderson. Elliott stopped just two of eight shootout tries against him while he was in Ottawa.

“It’s always a little nicer going down there when you’ve know you’ve got a bit of a cushion, you can be a little more patient,” Jason Spezza, who scored the only goal, said of the shootout. “Andy did that by making the saves. We were happy to get him the win. He played phenomenal.”


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