|Senators goaltender Craig Anderson takes part in practice at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Feb. 24, 2011. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI Agency)
ATLANTA — While Craig Anderson has been busy putting up some nice numbers as a Senator, he couldn’t help but notice another goalie doing the same.
Yes, Antti Niemi did pretty well for himself this week when he signed a four-year, $15.2-million deal to stay on with the San Jose Sharks. That’s a salary of $3.8 million for a veteran of 85 regular-season games — and 22 more in a playoff run that ended with him sipping from the Cup.
“He really had a great year so far this year, and I’m sure San Jose is looking for him to continue that great play into the playoffs,” noted Anderson, who is eligible to test the free agent market himself July 1.
Did the Niemi deal set a mark that he’ll be aiming at? It is in line with the pact Jaroslav Halat inked last summer (four years, $3.75 million per) with the St. Louis Blues.
“Hard to say,” said Anderson. “(Niemi) has 85-90 games in the league so far, plus a Cup ring, so it’s kind of hard to be a comparable. I’ve got a few more games, but I don’t have a Cup ring.”
Anderson, who makes $2.12 million, believes he has rediscovered his 2009-10 form (71 GP, 38 W, 2.63 GAA, .917 save percentage) since arriving in Ottawa. In five games as a Senator, he is 3-2 with a 1.19 GAA and .963 save percentage.
The Scotiabank Place fans have noticed the improvement at the position. After a Senators debut that saw him post a 1-0 shutout at the ACC, Anderson received a loud ovation when he was introduced as the starter in his first home game.
The cheers were even louder when his face flashed on the embarrassingly puny scoreboard prior to Tuesday’s game against the Bruins.
“I think everybody loves goalies,” Anderson said, grinning, before the team’s flight to Atlanta Wednesday. “It’s just the nature of the business — they either love you or they hate you. It’s just like the guy who fights the most is a crowd favourite. He’s going to get a pretty good applause. Or the guy who scores a lot. But the guys that go unnoticed on the scoresheet, and maybe by the fans, may be your most important guys. The guys that take a hit to make a play, or make big blocks at key times of the game. Sometimes those guys are overlooked, but I think guys in here realize that, and I realize that. So I guess we’ll take the fans’ applause when we can get it, but I definitely know to pass it on to the guys in front of us.
“I think the opening welcome from the fans puts a smile on your face and it makes you feel good, that you’ve kind of arrived. For me, it’s just coming in here and playing the game I’ve been playing since I was a kid. Let the results take care of themselves.”
Anderson doesn’t mind playing back-to-back games, which he’ll do Thursday and Friday unless Cory Clouston gives Curtis McElhinney his first start. While he admits he’s had a busy schedule, Anderson also says every guy wants to play when his confidence is high.
And right now, Anderson’s is high.
“When you’re feeling good out there, you want the puck,” he said, sounding a little more like a starting pitcher than a goalie. “A quarterback, if he’s feeling good, he wants the ball with two minutes to go, down by six points. That’s kind of the way I feel.
“Sometimes when you’re playing good, you don’t get the result. Sometimes when you’re playing bad, you get the result. It’s kind of a crazy business that way.”
Anderson won’t tip his hand on his plans for dealing with the contract situation, but he does like what he has seen so far in Ottawa. Likes it a lot.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but so far I love every situation I’ve been in here, and it’s been just a great fit right now,” he said. “It’s all up to both sides being happy. It’s a good place to play and I’m all about being happy, and putting a smile on my face and coming to the rink to have an enjoyable experience.”