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Senators believe in 'underrated' Craig Anderson against Rangers

Ready to count on goaltender again in Game 2

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- Each save seemed more miraculous than the next. There were diving saves, glove saves, pad saves and saves that saved the game and saves that boggled the mind. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves in the first period of Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators in their Eastern Conference Second Round series, 41 in total.

But as eye-popping as those 41 saves by Lundqvist were Thursday, he wasn't the winning goaltender. That was Craig Anderson, who made some outstanding saves of his own in Ottawa's 2-1 victory at Canadian Tire Centre.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports 2).

"I think [Anderson] has been an underrated goalie in this league for almost his whole career," Senators forward Mark Stone said of Anderson, who is in his 13th NHL season. "We know how good he is, but I think some people don't. He's been an unbelievable goaltender for us for the last three or four years, since I've been here, and especially in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs he's done a great job for us.

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators vs. Rangers series coverage]

 

"He's given us a chance to win every night. I think they can say the same thing about their goalie."

Indeed they can.

Lundqvist is among the best goaltenders in the world. Anderson isn't in the same category, but that's OK because Anderson has shown that he can do enough to beat those name goaltenders.

"I don't think he's talked about as much as Lundqvist, [Carey] Price, [Tuukka] Rask," Stone said. "We're so confident in him when he's in net. We know he's going to give that chance to win. He makes some saves that some goalies don't make. He reads the play a step above most goalies. Just the way he plays is an impressive way."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm1: Anderson snares Smith's rebound attempt

Anderson, who missed two months during the regular season to be with his wife, Nicholle, while she was being treated for cancer, went 25-11-4 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 40 games. He is 5-2 with a 1.81 GAA and .930 save percentage in seven playoff games.

"He's made, I think, the key saves at the right time," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "That's our goalie. He's done that. So we know we've got a good goalie. We know we're playing against a good one, but we know we've got a good one."

Even if the other goaltender has a bit more name recognition and a few more endorsements.

Perhaps Anderson will get a bit more credit if the Senators are able to get past the Rangers and reach the Eastern Conference Final.

When asked why Anderson doesn't get talked about like the elite goalies in the NHL, Stone said: "I don't know. He's beat Price in a playoff series. He's beat Rask in a playoff series. Those things are hard to answer. We know how good of a goalie he is. We know that he gives us the best chance to win. A goalie like that, with that talent, is comforting to play in front of."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm1: Anderson stifles McDonagh's break

Especially when the Rangers are the opponent.

Since the start of 2008-09, Anderson is 10-8-2 with a 1.86 GAA and .937 save percentage against the Rangers, including playoffs.

"Lundqvist has been there for eight, 10 years at least," said Anderson, who had 34 saves in Game 1. "You know he's always good. He's always giving his team a chance to win. You know you've got to bring your game. New York, Madison Square Garden's a pretty historical building. I think there's always some extra push -- mentally, physically -- from just playing in that building."

As for whether he feeds off Lundqvist making saves, Anderson said: "Directly, you're not thinking about it. But indirectly, it's definitely in the back of your head knowing he's giving his team a chance to win, making the big save, building momentum for them."

It's hard to dismiss Anderson. It's hard to ignore what he's brought and what he can continue to bring in this series.

Anderson doesn't have the same career numbers as Lundqvist. He is not the same goalie, not the same focal point of game plans and fears. And in this series, that means he probably suffers by comparison. Really, though, who doesn't?

But ultimately that isn't what is important. Anderson doesn't have to be great, he just has to be good enough. He was exactly that in Game 1, and now he has at least three and possibly as many as six games to prove that he can best Lundqvist in the only area that matters: wins.

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