By Adam Brady
The scene in the Ducks locker room following a practice day between Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Final were a perfect reflection of young Frederik Andersen.
A scrum of about two dozen newspaper writers, TV reporters and cameramen engulfed the 25-year-old netminder, who calmly and quietly answered every last question with a Ducks hat pulled low on his head and his face covered with a fledgling reddish (orange?) playoff beard.
|"If they’re doubting you can take care of something on the ice, you definitely want to prove them wrong. I try not to pay attention too much, but it’s always something I use as a fire and work harder.” |
Andersen, for the most part, had been left alone during the postseason by the media, who preferred the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Ryan Kesler for their sound bites. But it was the redheaded Dane’s performance in Game 1 of the series with the Blackhawks – punctuated by one of the most remarkable saves of the playoffs – that suddenly drew the attention of those holding the tape recorders and mics.
“Freddie’s been good and steady for us all the time,” says Getzlaf. “He makes most of the saves that he should and some that he shouldn’t. Those are what you need out of your goaltender. When you can take a team like that and keep them to the outside more and not allow them those second and third opportunities, we have faith in our goalie.”
While Andersen has maintained a consistent reliability throughout the postseason, he was a major reason Anaheim took Game 1, stopping 32 of 33 Blackhawks shots, including all 16 he was peppered with in the first period. The highlight was a lunging stick save when he was drawn badly out of position by Patrick Kane. “Luckily, he hit the stick,” Andersen said in typical modest fashion.
Andersen isn’t making an abundance of outrageous stops, not saving 50-plus shots in a night, not stealing games on his own. He’s pretty much doing in these playoffs what he’s done for most of the past two seasons – simply helping the Ducks win hockey games.
In fact, no goaltender in history has won this many games as quickly as Andersen, who last March tied an NHL record (held by Montreal’s Bill Durnan) by winning his 50th game in only his 68th appearance. In his second season in the NHL, Andersen went 35-12-5 with three shutouts, a 2.38 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 54 games
But what the numbers don’t reflect are the countless big saves Andersen has made in the tensest moments, all while maintaining an unflappable demeanor that is the perfect temperament for his position. Earlier in the postseason he was asked by one reporter if he enjoys proving people wrong and offered a hint of a smile when he responded, “It depends on what they’re saying. If they’re saying good things, I don’t mind proving them right. If they’re doubting you can take care of something on the ice, you definitely want to prove them wrong.”
|“For me it’s making that big save or the next save and not getting down two goals or more. I think we’ve all done a good job being patient and staying with our game plan, even when we’ve been down. And that’s resulted in eight wins so far.” |
“I try not to pay attention too much, but it’s always something I use as a fire and work harder.”
Andersen revealed in an interview this year that he used to let that so-called fire burn out of control at times earlier in his playing career. “I had a real temper when I was young,” he said. “I kind of grew out of it. I was pretty fiery. It comes back every once in a while. I was a really bad loser. I still have that. It happens still.”
That thankfully hasn’t emerged in these playoffs, which serve as somewhat of a redemption for Andersen. As a rookie coming off a stellar debut season (including a 20-5-0 record), he suffered an MCL sprain in Game 3 of the Second Round with the Kings and missed the rest of the season. There were indications that he was prepared to return for the next round vs. Chicago, which the Ducks never saw after falling to LA in Game 7.
Fellow rookie John Gibson started that game and a 2-1 Ducks defeat in Game 6, and the two were expected to battle for the No. 1 spot this season, something Andersen welcomed. “It brings out the best in me every time I get pushed,” he says. “It just makes me want to work harder.”
But injuries to Gibson and Andersen’s strong play from the start of this campaign have seen him become the full-time netminder and emerge into a calming and dependable last line of defense for Anaheim in this postseason.
“He's another year older. He now knows what to expect from himself,” says Ducks coach Boudreau said. “He's not afraid of the league.”