Prior to tonight’s Game 2 against Chicago, Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau had some interesting remarks about Frederik Andersen’s emergence in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Fortunately for us, or unfortunately, [John Gibson] got hurt in early April and Freddie ran with it a little bit,” Boudreau explained. “He’s gotten better and better and better.
“I think it’s taken the worry out of Freddie’s game and it’s taken the worry from us about him being able to handle playoff pressure.”
Gibson, the club’s 21-year-old goalie of the future, got hurt while battling for Anaheim’s playoff starting gig, and his injury all but took the decision out of Boudreau’s hands — which, hindsight being 20/20, could’ve been the best thing that happened to the Ducks.
Why? Well, the “worry” in Andersen’s game, as alluded to above, was partly due to Boudreau’s (ahem) colorful dealings with his goalies.
Like last spring, for example, when Anaheim became one of the few teams in NHL history to start three different netminders — Gibson, Andersen and Jonas Hiller — in a single postseason. Andersen opened as the playoff starter in Round 1 against Dallas, only to cede the job to Hiller, who eventually closed out the Stars in Game 6.
Hiller then opened Round 2 against the Kings, lasting just two games before Boudreau went back to Andersen — but when the Andersen got hurt, it was Gibson, not Hiller, who took over, as the Ducks eventually fell to L.A. in seven games.
Unsurprisingly, Boudreau’s handling was met with negative reviews. Hiller called the situation “frustrating” after leaving in free agency; in March, Andersen all but assumed he’d be embroiled in yet another “who’s the starter?” saga heading into the playoffs.
“I know we both have to battle for it,” he told the O.C. Register. “I know it’s going to be a long season. You saw it last year. We had three goalies playing due to different circumstances. I know that.”
Boudreau’s penchant for flip-flopping predates his time with the Ducks. In Washington, he yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov during the 2009 playoffs; a year later, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov.
So it’s easy to see why, this year, Andersen (9-1-0, 1.86 GAA, .930 save percentage) isn’t as mentally taxed. The notion of yanking him in favor of Gibson isn’t constantly looming; in fact, of all the goalies to play at least six playoff games, only Andersen, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne have been in net for the entirety.
And it seems all that uninterrupted action is paying off.
“I think [Andersen’s] getting more confidence,” Boudreau explained. “He’s played through two rounds now. He’s seen the pressure that comes with it.
“You don’t win unless your goaltender in any playoff series is really good. You need it.”