Curtis McElhinney


Maple Leafs should rest workhorse goalie Andersen


Earlier this season, much of the discussion about the Edmonton Oilers’ struggles revolved around the possibility that Cam Talbot was worn out from 2016-17. At least when people weren’t making trade jokes.

There’s no denying that Talbot carried a heavy burden last season, starting a Brodeurian 73 regular-season games and then heading Edmonton’s playoff push.

One cannot help but wonder if the Toronto Maple Leafs are taking similar risks with their 28-year-old workhorse goalie Frederik Andersen. No goalie has faced more shots (3,923) and made more saves (3,605) than Andersen since he joined the Buds last season. In fact, it’s not particularly close, with Andersen leading Talbot and the rest of the pack by at least 200 shots faced/saves.

To his credit, Andersen’s passed his tests with flying colors, generating a .919 save percentage so far despite those heavy minutes.

That’s all a testament to Andersen, who seemed pretty happy with the idea of carrying such a burden last season. Still, Mike Babcock & Co. should think long and hard about giving Andersen more rest down the stretch, even if they might need to ward off the occasional rebuttal. Take, for instance, what Nazem Kadri told the Canadian Press about resting players about a year ago:

“Never. Never,” Kadri said when asked about the subject before adding a slight caveat. “Maybe if you had first locked into place by a mile and it was the last game of the year on the road or something — maybe you sit a guy out. But never for multiple games … If a healthy player is healthy he’s playing.”

Now, the Maple Leafs don’t have “first locked into place by a mile,” yet they seem more or less stapled to third in the Atlantic Division. With the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins hammering out what could be a tight battle for the division crown, Toronto could make for a tough opponent if they bring younger and fresher legs into such a series.

As formidable as the Bruins and Lightning look, both teams are banged up. The B’s are playing it safe with Tuukka Rask, too:

The Maple Leafs are already taking a cautious approach with healing up Auston Matthews‘ shoulder injury, so why not play it safe with Andersen?

Beyond (ideally) reducing the odds of an injury, there are some other benefits to giving him a breather.

The Other Guys

Quietly, Curtis McElhinney has been fantastic as Andersen’s aging backup. The 34-year-old has 11 starts and 13 appearances, going 7-4-1 with a splendid .931 save percentage. He was pretty sturdy last season, too, generating a .917 save percentage between his time with Columbus and Toronto.

At minimum, it seems like McElhinney’s earned a few more looks, and the Maple Leafs would be wise to keep him sharp in case anything happens to Andersen.

Going further, the Maple Leafs also might want to take another glance or two at overqualified AHL goalie Calvin Pickard. The 25-year-old got a raw deal in being claimed off of waivers after getting lost in the shuffle with the Vegas Golden Knights, and if he’s sulking with the Toronto Marlies, he’s not exactly letting it affect his play. Pickard’s 17-8-0 with a .924 save percentage in the AHL this season.

With McElhinney signed through 2018-19 and Pickard set as a pending RFA, the Maple Leafs might have to make a choice regarding their backup situation soon. Giving one or both of them reps down the stretch might just bump up their trade value this summer, so there are benefits even beyond limiting Andersen’s fatigue.


Now, this isn’t to say that Andersen should stick to the bench until April.

Goalies prefer to stay sharp, and considering the volume of shots the Maple Leafs often yield, he might feel like too much rest is like going cold turkey. There’s a balance to be struck here, and that may be the job of trainers, if not sports psychologists.

Still, the Maple Leafs lean a ton on Andersen, so they’d be wise to consider taking their feet off the pedal for a bit. At least until the real race begins in the playoffs.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Frederik Andersen forced to leave game after taking skate to the head


Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen was forced to leave the game in the second period of the Maple Leafs game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday after taking a skate to the head.

Ducks forward Corey Perry collided with Andersen in his crease.

Perry appears to come through the crease and gets tripped up by Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey, sending Perry horizontal, with his left skate smacking Anderson in the head on the way up.

The Toronto Maple Leafs No. 1 netminder lay on the ice before skating off under his own power, holding his mouth.

Backup Curtis McElhinney replaced Andersen.

The Maples Leafs lead the Ducks 4-3 after two periods.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: A throwback night for Ryans

Players of the Night:

Highlight of the Night: Ryan Callahan turns back the clock.

Seriously, Callahan did this … in 2018.

Chris Neil honored: So many black eyes and bruises.


Read about Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin reaching milestones here.

A quirky stat stemming from John Gibson‘s troubling injury, and Ryan Miller coming in relief:

Speaking of Miller …

… and speaking of Miller, again:

And speaking of a team that once tormented Miller, at least when Milan Lucic was around:


Predators 3, Devils 0
Lightning 5, Flyers 1
Penguins 6, Wild 3
Hurricanes 6, Canadiens 5
Bruins 3, Senators 2
Blackhawks 5, Red Wings 1
Capitals 4, Panthers 2
Blues 3, Avalanche 1
Maple Leafs 4, Stars 1
Oilers 4, Flames 3 (SO)
Blue Jackets 2, Coyotes 1
Sabres 4, Canucks 0
Islanders 2, Golden Knights 1
Ducks 4, Jets 3 (SO)
Rangers 6, Sharks 5

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

Associated Press
1 Comment

Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.


Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

How concerned should Maple Leafs be with recent slide?


Two weeks into the season the Toronto Maple Leafs were the hottest team in the NHL. They were lighting up the scoreboard, winning games, and looking like they were on the verge of a breakout season that would see their young roster go from a promising team on the rise to a potential Stanley Cup contender.

Things have cooled off considerably in recent weeks.

After their 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, a game that probably wasn’t as close as that final score would indicate, the Maple Leafs have now lost six of their past eight games and haven’t always looked great in the process.

Small blip on the radar during a long marathon season, or something that should have Maple Leafs fans a little bit concerned?

When you look at the underlying cause of the recent losses it’s probably more of the former than the latter.

A couple of things to consider about this recent stretch.

Goaltending has crushed them

Starter Frederik Andersen has not had a great start to the season and after Saturday’s loss is carrying an .895 save percentage that is among the worst marks in the NHL. During this recent eight-game stretch he has been even worse with an .891 mark. It would be unfair to put all of the blame on Andersen for the team’s inability to keep the puck out of the net because the team in front of him hasn’t always been great defensively, but the Maple Leafs are paying Andersen more than $5 million per season. They should be able to expect more out of him than what they are getting at the moment.

Their backup, Curtis McElhinney, has only played in two games and already given up eight goals.

If there is something to be optimistic about for the Maple Leafs it’s that Andersen should be better and most likely will be better because his start this season is very similar to what he went through in the first part of the 2016-17 season.

In his first year with the Maple Leafs Andersen had a brutal start to the season and in his first 13 starts was struggling with a .900 save percentage.

He finished the season with a .922 mark in his final 53 appearances. He has struggled for now, but he will not be this bad forever. He may not be a top-tier goalie in the league, but he has a proven track record of being an average to slightly above average goalie. Even that level of play would make a significant difference in the Maple Leafs’ recent fortunes.

Some of their young guys are struggling

The Maple Leafs have an embarrassment of riches at forward with Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Connor Brown leading the way.

So far Matthews is looking like a potential MVP contender and continues to be better than he was originally advertised to be.

During this recent slump the duo of Nylander and Marner has hit a bit of a slump offensively combining for just one goal (Nylander) on 39 shots. Combine that with the fact that veterans Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk have only combined for three of their own on 32 shots and a significant part of the offense is mired in a slump.

This isn’t an uncommon thing during a long season as all players of all skill levels will go through peaks and valleys when it comes to their production.

So here’s where we are with this Maple Leafs team: They are an exciting (sometimes recklessly so) young team that still has some flaws in the defensive end. Right now those flaws are being magnified by some sub-par goaltending and a pretty significant cold streak from some of their top players. Put those two things together and you get a pretty ugly slump that takes away some of the excitement of the team’s fast start. Eventually the goaltending and scoring slump from the likes of Nylander and Marner are going to correct themselves, and when they do the Maple Leafs should be closer to the team we saw in the first two weeks instead of the past two.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.