Avalanche netminder Craig Anderson was named the NHL’s First Star for October, but the argument could be made that he’s currently playing some of his best hockey of the season.
The Park Ridge, Ill., native has won four of his last five starts to help the Avalanche regain sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division.
Coming into Saturday’s afternoon tilt against the Devils, Anderson had posted a 3-1-0 record with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage over his past four outings.
But the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. Anderson’s steady and sometimes spectacular play led Colorado to shootout victories over Buffalo and Calgary on the club’s recent road trip. During those two contests, he combined to stop 76-of-81 shots (.938 save percentage) while also foiling 10-of-14 shootout attempts. In a league where every point is crucial when it comes to the year-end standings, Anderson’s performances have helped the Avalanche inch somewhat closer to eventually clinching a playoff berth.
Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Devils was no different, as the netminder stood on his head at times en route to a 37-save performance. Anderson made 14 stops during the second period and outdid that in the final stanza, posting 15 saves with the Devils applying heavy pressure.
“I think it’s been a great effort all year. My job is a lot easier once we get a couple of goals and guys are doing their job,” said Anderson. “We had some big blocks out front, guys cleaning up some of the mess I left for them. Guys were outstanding; we were all on the same page. I just had to make the first save and guys did a good job of getting the puck out and blocking shots.”
The Avalanche received all of the offense it needed during the opening frame, as Chris Stewart converted a Paul Stastny
feed from just outside the crease 3:17 into the contest and T.J. Galiardi blasted a shot home from the right faceoff dot at 18:32 during 4-on-4 action.
The Devils got within a goal when Rob Niedermayer snuck behind the Avs’ defense and put in a low shot 1:55 into the third period.
Wojtek Wolski eventually iced the game with 13 seconds remaining after depositing a Stewart feed.Lineup Changes
Veteran winger Milan Hejduk
(knee) sat out this afternoon’s contest. Hejduk has now missed a total of eight games throughout the course of the season, six because of his knee and two due to a back ailment.
Marek Svatos, activated off injured reserve earlier in the day, replaced Hejduk in the Avalanche’s lineup. Defenseman Brett Clark (cheek) also made his return to the lineup tonight after missing four games.
Defenseman Wes O’Neill, who was recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters earlier in the day, was a healthy scratch, along with forward Chris Durno.And Many More
The Avalanche no longer has two 18-year-old centers on its roster, as rookie Matt Duchene
celebrated his 19th birthday today. The Haliburton, Ontario native commemorated the occasion by drawing the secondary assist on Galiardi’s game-winning goal.
Ryan O’Reilly, the Avalanche’s lone current 18-year-old, will celebrate his 19th birthday on Feb. 7.