Can Craig Anderson handle the pressure?
Until he suffered a hand injury slicing frozen chicken in the kitchen on Feb. 22 after shutting out the Washington Capitals, the Senators goalie carried the load and played a major role in getting this club to the playoffs.
Now, as the Senators open their first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Anderson has to prove himself all over again. He helped get Ottawa to the dance, now he has to go head-to-head with Henrik Lundqvist, who has had an MVP-type season.
It is a challenge that doesn’t faze Anderson. Goalies make a name for themselves with strong play during the regular season, but they earn their reputations during the playoffs. This is where we will find out what makes Anderson tick.
“There are lots of guys, not just goaltenders but players, who end up getting reputations from playoff performances,” said Anderson.
“It’s one of those things where everything matters.
“Anybody can have a 4- to 6-week stretch during the regular season where they’re outstanding. For some guys, it just so happens that it happens for them in the playoffs. Guys go through slumps and guys go through highs.
“It’s just the timing of everything ... timing is everything in life, whether it’s hockey or anything else, timing seems to be a key factor in how things work out for a lot of people.”
Acquired from the Avalanche at last year’s trade deadline and signed to a four-year contract extension in the spring, the 30-year-old Anderson has had a tremendous regular season, even though he was out for a month.
He finished with a 33-22-6 record in 63 games, with a 2.84 GAA and .914 save percentage and.
But Anderson doesn’t have a whole lot of playoff experience. He played six first-round games with the Avs in 2010.
Coupled with his record in the OHL, AHL and NHL, he has never won a playoff series. He did get a playoff shutout against the San Jose Sharks on April 10, 2010, when he made 50 stops in a 1-0 victory.
“I’ve got that on tape,” said Anderson. “That’s something my kid (Jake) is going to be watching. It’s a (moment) that not many people get to experience. It was a time that I’ll never forget. Having the fan support like that, it’s euphoria. It just makes your arms tingle, all the hair on the back of your neck stands up. It’s something that you want to repeat. It’s an experience you want to get to again.”
Anderson said experience is important, but can be overrated; youthful exuberance can also take a team a long way. The Senators aren’t going to have any pressure facing the Eastern Conference-champion Rangers.
“Experience is huge come playoff time,” said Anderson. “But sometimes the unknown is also positive. A lot of our guys don’t have that experience and some of our guys have a lot of experience.
“The unknown (can be helpful). If you go in there, and you don’t know what to expect, sometimes you can go in there and you can light it up by playing really well. There really is no pressure on us. We’ve got nothing to lose. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we’ve been playing and keep finding ways to win.”
THE ANDY FILE
- Age: 30
- Eye-catching stat: His numbers at Madison Square Garden are an outstanding 6-0-0 with a 1.13 GAA.
- Quote: “Regular season is definitely different than playoffs. The building is going to be that much more energized, which means more energy for them to feed on and more energy for us to feed on. It’s a whole other game level. What’s happened during the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot.”