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Conference Final

Coach's analysis: Craig Anderson handled 'heightened tension' in Game 6

Former NHL assistant Jim Corsi says goalie was prepared to help Ottawa defeat Penguins, avoid elimination

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Jim Corsi to break down the action from the Senators' perspective. Corsi will be checking in throughout the series.

Corsi, 62, is the former goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres (2001-14) and St. Louis Blues (2014-17). He also played 26 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1979-80 season.

OTTAWA -- Jim Corsi has been a goaltending coach in the NHL long enough to know how to decipher between the goalie who has the mental fortitude to rebound from a bad game and the one who doesn't.

He wasn't surprised to see Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson answer the bell at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday, when he made 45 saves in a 2-1 season-saving win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Anderson's performance came two days after he was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots in 18:32 of ice time in Game 5. That turned into a 7-0 loss that put the Senators on the ropes.

Video: Clutch Performance: Anderson forces Game 7 vs. Pens

Now, because of Anderson and his mental fortitude, the Senators and Penguins will play Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The winner goes to the Stanley Cup Final to play the Nashville Predators.

"In the case of a guy like [Anderson], he's had a lot of emotional issues over the past year and it's not related to on ice," Corsi said, referring to Anderson's wife, Nicholle, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in October. "So when people are looking outside and thinking, 'Oh my God, it's 2-1 with five minutes to go,' and you can taste that bile in your mouth because you're so tense, it's not like that with him. When you talk about [Anderson's] life issues that he's gone through, he's had the emotional preparation to deal with adversity."

Corsi said he doesn't typically talk publicly about his coaching philosophy with goaltenders, but he did for this story because it helped explain Anderson and his bounce-back performance.

For starters, Corsi said Anderson proved he has the ability to "function under the heightened value of the game," which he said is crucial to a goalie having success in May and June.

The key is strong preparation.

"You talk to Broadway stars and you talk to people who are firefighters, what I've learned is there is a heightened tension," Corsi said. "And I call it that, not pressure, because pressure for me is the realization that you're not prepared for the situation. That's pressure. And if you let that creep into your psyche, you will most likely fail. This is like anything else, like a doctor going into surgery or a mountain climber climbing the mountain. It's about trusting the foundation of your work so when a situation is different you can trust that you will be able to respond because of your preparation. Translate that to a goaltender, well, it's the same thing."

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm6: Anderson denies Kessel's late wrister

Corsi said to get there he always tries to train a goaltender to be as sharp mentally as he is physically.

"Mentally such that if it's a September exhibition game, a December regular-season game or Game 7 in June, you try to maintain an EQ, an emotional quotient, that allows you to play in the present," Corsi said. "It's not, 'Oh my God, it's June 7.' It allows you to function."

Corsi said experience helps, but even when you're 36 years old like Anderson and you've never been this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, understanding how to live in the moment is crucial. That's how Anderson was, as Corsi said, "a presence on the ice" in Game 6.

"Great goaltenders, first of all, give a lot of work and attention to the detail in all aspects," Corsi said. "The second part is they actually play hockey. If you're going to focus on puck-stopping, I often say you're doomed to stopping pucks because the minute a guy is about to shoot on you and he passes to someone else and you're looking and thinking, 'Where is this going?' it's too late. The third part is his team believes in him. You could see it [Tuesday].

"And the fourth level now is on the ice. You could see [Anderson] getting into the Penguins' heads, in so much that they realize that they aren't going to be the free-wheeling, wing-driving team that gets 2-on-1s and 3-on-1s against him. They have to throw the puck at the net and they're thinking the only way they get it by him is throw it there and look for loose change, but [Anderson] responded [Tuesday] and his own team grew from it."

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