Frederik Andersen Has Not Yet Seized Control of the Net

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Last night’s win over the Arizona Coyotes marked the first time Frederik Andersen won consecutive starts since the Anaheim Ducks defeated the St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres on October 19th and October 22nd, respectively. It also marked three weeks since rookie netminder John Gibson was sidelined because of an injured groin. The timetable for Gibson’s injury was six to eight weeks, which would place his return at mid-December at the earliest and around Christmas or the New Year at the latest (he was injured on November 2nd in warm-ups). The Ducks most likely will not rush Gibson back before they feel he is completely healthy, but the Ducks should be eager to get him back in the crease as soon as possible. When Gibson went down in Colorado, it was seen as a great chance for Andersen to stake his claim as the full-time starter in net while pushing Gibson into a backup role. However, inconsistent play and negative body language (possibly a confidence issue) have left the door open for Gibson, who could potentially take advantage of this opportunity when he eventually returns.

Andersen was also suffering from leg tightness on the night Gibson went down, and the Danish netminder did not return between the pipes until November 7th against the Arizona Coyotes. Since then, Andersen has appeared in eight games for the Ducks, posting a 2-1-4 record with a 2.64 GAA and a .898 SV%. The GAA figure isn’t terrible, but that save percentage is a bit worrisome. Those eight games include the Ducks 6-5 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings, where Andersen allowed three goals on ten shots, including a Trevor Lewis shot from just inside the blue line. After that goal, Andersen was pulled for veteran Jason LaBarbera, who earned the eventual win. Last Sunday, when the Ducks played the Florida Panthers, Andersen allowed three goals on nine shots before being pulled for LaBarbera. Andersen came back in for the third period and finished with four goals allowed on just 15 shots. Then, there was Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames, where Andersen allowed three third period goals in a span of five shots and finished with three goals allowed on 19 total shots in a shootout loss. The biggest and most apparent issue with those games was the timing of the goals. There are points in every game where the goaltender must come up with a big stop. The first game against the Kings is a great example of this.

Despite controlling the pace of play early, the Ducks were in an early 2-0 deficit against Los Angeles. Finally, the Ducks’ patience was rewarded, as Cam Fowler beat Jonathan Quick, cutting the deficit in half and bringing some energy back to Honda Center. However, Andersen was beat by Lewis’ shot just two minutes later, restoring the deficit back to two on what seemed like a harmless shot and routine save for the goalie. When LaBarbera came in with the Ducks still down 3-1, he made a key stop on Justin Williams. On the ensuing rush up ice, Ryan Kesler found Jakob Silfverberg for a goal, cutting the deficit back to one again. That sequence was a tremendous two-goal swing, and that was a key moment in the game, which the Ducks ultimately clawed back in and won. Goals like the last one Andersen gave up that night are about as deflating as they come and ones that must be stopped.

Without the three poor performances, Andersen has a much better stat line of 2-0-3, 1.90 GAA, and a .934 SV%. Those numbers are more in line with what the team expected from Andersen, both entering the season and after Gibson was hurt. However, those three forgettable performances are very real and have hurt Andersen’s overall numbers. The Dane has had a terrific opportunity to cement himself as the franchise goaltender, yet Andersen has not quite given the team full confidence that he can be the goalie moving forward. Now, the blame for some of those losses and poor numbers does not fall solely on Andersen: the play in front of him has been atrocious for stretches. When the team doesn’t display effort on the ice, there are untimely turnovers and mental lapses, which have often led to the goals on the other end.The Ducks have also had to deal with a slew of injuries. However, every team goes through injuries over the grind of an 82 game regular season, and the players have to be mentally sharp, regardless of who is in the lineup. The Ducks have shown that they can play without their best players: they beat the Kings in that aforementioned contest without Corey Perry or Francois Beauchemin. The guys up front may not be at their best each and every night, but those nights need to be far less common than they have been for Anaheim in order to help out the goaltender.

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Gibson appeared in four games prior to his injury. He didn’t have a particularly eye-popping statline, going 2-2-0 with a  2.28 GAA and .927 SV%. However, those numbers are quite solid, especially that save percentage. Without the Pittsburgh game (where the defensive play was was outright horrendous), and his numbers are extremely impressive (2-1-0, 1.02 GAA, .964 SV%), including a 38 save shutout over the Chicago Blackhawks. Had a shot not bounced off the back of Hampus Lindholm into the net, Gibson would have had two shutouts in those three starts. It seemed Gibson was getting on the right track following the opening night disaster, and although the groin injury may take some more time to heal completely, expect Gibson to return to form when he returns.

Andersen has looked better in the past two games, especially last night when there was a noticeable drop-off in the Ducks’ compete level in the 3rd period. Despite that, Andersen stood his ground in the crease and managed to get a regulation win for the first time since Gibson’s injury on November 2nd. Though the Ducks have fought stretches of maddeningly inconsistent play over that three week stretch, the team finds itself atop the Pacific Division and Western Conference with a 13-4-5 record. There are still more opportunities for Andersen to make a statement. The Ducks will host the Flames tomorrow night, the Blackhawks on a Black Friday matinée, and will then travel for a Saturday night bout with the Sharks before returning home to finish off a six-game California stretch with two home games against the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Expect to see Andersen in at least four of those games during that stretch (the back-to-back may be the only game in question). This looks to be one of the toughest five game stretches on the schedule this season. After the smoke clears on this stretch, the team could either be ready to give Andersen full control or wait for the return of Gibson.