Anaheim Ducks Will Go As Far As Frederik Andersen Will Take Them


October 17, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen (31) defends the goal against the Minnesota Wild during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Two or three years ago, the sheer notion that Frederik Andersen would be backstopping the Anaheim Ducks would have been a major surprise to many. However, surprises have come as years have passed. Six games into the 2014-2015 NHL season, Andersen has been a calming force in net for the Ducks, who have won five straight games and are 5-1-0 on the year. Andersen is coming off a 28 save shutout (the first of his career) against the St. Louis Blues, which puts him at a spectacular 5-0-0 mark with a .950 SV% and a 1.38 GAA for the season. Even more impressive is that Andersen now sports a 25-5-0 career record, which is incredible. Andersen has made timely save after timely save, and he has seized control of the Ducks’ starting goaltender job with his strong play this season. After the first few games of the season, it is evident that the Anaheim Ducks will go as far as Andersen can carry them.

Andersen was somewhat lost in the shuffle in Anaheim, with veteran Jonas Hiller manning the crease for so many years. The Ducks also drafted uber-prospect John Gibson in the 2nd round of 2011 and got a solid season from Swedish netminder Viktor Fasth in 2012-2013, further pushing the Dane into obscurity. Andersen was originally drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL Draft. However, Carolina and Andersen never agreed to a contract, which resulted in Andersen playing in the Danish and Swedish Elite Leagues for two seasons. Andersen was once again eligible for selection in the 2012 NHL Draft. That year, the Ducks took the Danish netminder in the 3rd round with the 87th overall pick. After signing a two year entry-level deal, Andersen was in Norfolk to play with the Admirals for the 2012-2013 season. He was very successful in his first season in North America, posting a 24-18-1 record with a .929 SV% and 2.19 GAA. An early injury to Fasth in the 2013-2014 season left Andersen to handle the backup goaltender job behind Hiller for the 2013-2014 season. Andersen would go 20-5-0, posting a .939 SV% and 2.29 GAA, and his solid play was a major reason why the team traded Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline. Hiller also struggled late in the season, and both Andersen and Gibson played well enough to let the Ducks feel comfortable enough to let Hiller walk to Calgary in the offseason. Andersen was tabbed by Boudreau as the initial starter, and although he had some struggles against the Dallas Stars, he might have seen more time in the Los Angeles series had he not suffered an MCL sprain in Game 3 against the Kings.

Coming into the 2014-2015 season, the starting goaltender job was up for grabs between the two youngsters. Gibson got the first tryout in Pittsburgh, but his less-than-stellar play gave Andersen a golden opportunity. The Dane has appeared to have secured his spot between the pipes for the Ducks. Although it is a small sample size for both the season and his career, Andersen is posting phenomenal numbers. His confidence appears to be back after being pulled from Game 4 and Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, when he yielded eight goals in those two games. Regular season hockey and postseason hockey are two completely different animals, but Andersen did not look comfortable in the crease last year in April and May. So far, there is an aura of calmness surrounding the Dane, who has three of his five wins away from Honda Center. This includes a win in Joe Louis Arena, where the Ducks have only won six times in the franchise’s history. Andersen looks much more controlled, composed, and more fundamentally sound in net this year, and he is giving his team confidence and keeping them in games night in and night out. In the Minnesota game, he let up a slightly soft goal to Jason Zucker, but he limited the damage to just the one goal. The Ducks, who did not particularly play well in the first 40 minutes, came back in the third to win 2-1. That’s what good goalies are supposed to do: they give their team a chance to win by keeping the team in the game, regardless of how the skaters are playing.

Gibson was sent to the AHL for the weekend to sharpen his skills, and he was recalled by the team this morning. He should be bringing his absolute best to the table, even after going 1-1 over the weekend in Norfolk. Despite his early success, Andersen will need to continue to impress. The Ducks believe Gibson could one day soon be the franchise goalie, and one bad stretch of games could give Gibson another opportunity to state his case. However, the net is Andersen’s for now.

There is a persisting adage in hockey: “If you have two goalies, you have no goalie.” This was definitely an argument for last season’s team. If Andersen maintains this level of play, then the situation will turn into more of a defined 1/2 system instead of a 1a/1b. If the season were to end today and the Ducks were to be in the playoffs, Andersen would be the unquestioned starter in net for Anaheim. It is not known if Andersen is the solution for the Ducks if they want to win a Stanley Cup, but every organization must start somewhere with their respective starting goaltender. If these first five games are any indication about how Andersen can play, then he might be hoisting the Cup come June.