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Andersen sees Maple Leafs 'really close' to Stanley Cup contention

Goalie says seven-game playoff loss to Bruins proves they can make run at title

by Dave McCarthy / Independent Correspondent

TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen said he believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are on the verge of becoming a Stanley Cup contender this season and he's basing it on the success of their most bitter rival.

Last season, the Maple Leafs were defeated in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Boston Bruins, who went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the St. Louis Blues.

"It's a double-edged sword," the 29-year-old goalie said Wednesday. "You want to measure yourself against the best teams and I thought we did great against Boston. Obviously, we didn't get result we wanted, but I think it shows we're really close, and given they went that far is something that also speaks to how far we've come and how we are inching closer to the ultimate goal."

The Maple Leafs (46-28-8) finished third in the Atlantic Division last season and reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight season.

"Every year guys come in with a really excited mindset," Andersen said. "I'm sure everyone has been working hard in the summer to try to keep improving. I think that shows when you come in with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in the weeks before camp."

Video: 31 in 31: Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-20 season preview

Andersen, who was 36-16-7 with a 2.77 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and one shutout in 60 games last season, altered his offseason training routine, returning to the ice sooner than he had in the past.

"Just keep getting better and keep getting healthy," Andersen said. "That was the main thing, and I tried to be on the ice a little bit earlier, maybe not as much but a little bit earlier so I would keep the good feeling, and I think I've been feeling good so far. I wouldn't go on a lot but maybe once a week to start, so I don't feel like I'm starting all over when I'm putting on the gear for the first time in the fall. That was basically the motive."

Andersen had a groin injury last season that caused him to miss eight games from Dec. 23-Jan. 14 and continued to bother him. He said he feels better now compared to the end of last season.

"It's nice to be healthy," Andersen said, "and once you feel you can move at 100 percent, you're going to feel more fluent, and I think the same goes for everyone."

Toronto may decide to lighten Andersen's workload this season; he started 66 games in each of the two previous seasons before starting 60 last season.

"I actually think the program is easier in the beginning, I think you start playing a little bit more once the football season stops," he said. "We'll see, but I'm sure we'll try to do some load management or whatever you'll call it."

Andersen has been taking part in informal skates before training camp with other Toronto players, including new teammate Tyson Barrie, the defenseman acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on July 1.

"Tyson has definitely impressed me a lot moving the puck really well," Andersen said. "We're excited about having him."

The growth of the Maple Leafs core -- center Auston Matthews, forwards William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson and defenseman Morgan Rielly -- figures to help Toronto in its Cup quest. What would help even more is if the Maple Leafs can sign restricted free agent forward Mitchell Marner, who led them with an NHL career-high 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists).

"It's easier to get a good answer on improvement once we really get started," Andersen said, "but mostly off the ice, the leadership of that young group that's been here for a while now has been growing."

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