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First Round

Andersen looks to continue strong play in Game 2 for Maple Leafs

Seeks success against Bruins after first-round loss last season

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The most telling sign that Frederik Andersen is tuned into his game is when he's tuning out the fans, the critics and all the white noise around him.

That's why there is quiet optimism surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie heading into Game 2 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).

"Even when you're doing well, you want to keep your focus on your next five yards instead of on the next mile," Andersen said Friday. "Step by step."

 

[RELATED: Complete series coverage]

 

If the Maple Leafs are to win their first Stanley Cup Playoff series since 2004, no player is likely more important than Andersen. He is determined to improve on his 3.76 goals-against average and .896 save percentage in a seven-game elimination to Boston in the first round a season ago. 

To that end, struggles of the past have been put in the rearview mirror for Andersen, whose only concern is helping the Maple Leafs take a 2-0 lead in the series after their 4-1 win in Game 1 on Thursday. Andersen made 37 saves and had no chance on the only Bruins goal, a tape-to-tape pass from Brad Marchand to Patrice Bergeron which gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 9:31 of the first period.

The crowd then mocked Andersen with chants of "Fred-die, Fred-die" in an attempt to rattle him and haunt him with reminders of his struggles during the 2018 playoffs. Andersen shut out the Bruins for the remaining 50 minutes, 29 seconds.

"They have great fans here but fans aren't on the ice with you," Andersen said. "You can only worry about things you can control, not things that you can't."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm1: Andersen turns away shot from Pastrnak

Those words are music to the ears of Toronto coach Mike Babcock, whose belief in his No. 1 goalie never wavered throughout Andersen's struggles down the stretch. The veteran won three games and had an .881 save percentage in his final 10 games of the regular season and appeared to be entering the playoffs on a low note.

Through it all, Babcock maintained that Andersen would regain his form once the postseason arrived. One game does not a series make, but Andersen certainly is trending in the right direction.

"I think with all of us we go through some adversity in our life," Babcock said. "What you do is try to dig in to make it as short as possible. Everybody likes feeling good in everything you do. That's life. You want your ups to be longer than your downs. So if you dig in, you dig in every day, you don't end up with downs that long.

"Freddy is a guy we trust, Freddy's a guy who's a real leader on our team, who works hard and who is proud of what he does and who obviously wanted to get his game back. He did (in Game 1)."

With a little help from his friends in blue and white, of course.

Expect the Maple Leafs defense in Game 2 to try to continue boxing out Bruins forwards in front of Andersen and force them to the perimeter, a recipe that worked successfully in the opener. Particularly successful were defensemen Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev, who spent a good chunk of Game 1 limiting the chances of Boston's top line of Marchard, Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

"You need to play them hard, limit their time and space, like you have to against most top lines in the League," Muzzin said. "I thought we did a good job tracking them. I didn't find there was a lot of rush chances from them. But the key was that Freddie made the saves."

Video: Toronto's defensive effort among Thursday Takeaways

Muzzin said the entire team trusts Andersen, even after his subpar end to the regular season.

"I'm not worried about Fred, I don't think anyone worries about Fred," Muzzin said. "He's calm. He's cool. He's collected. He made the saves when we needed them, kept us in the game when they scored the first goal and we kept going with it."

Andersen said he anticipates the Bruins will attempt to make his life more difficult by getting more bodies into his sightlines and around his crease. If so, he'll try to maintain his composure in dealing with it. It's the same type of practical attitude that's allowed him to rediscover his game.

"You just kind of work through things like that," Andersen said. "You go through different periods where it goes better for you (and) sometimes it doesn't go as well. You go through that. I've been through that before. You learn from it and you keep pushing. Eventually you're going to come out of it and feel better again. 

"Sometimes the pucks not following you, but if you work through it you'll get better and feel good again."

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