|Senators goaltender Craig Anderson enjoyed his greatest playoff hockey moment two years ago in Colorado. It's something he'd like to repeat in Ottawa's series against the New York Rangers (Getty Images).
Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, Craig Anderson
might still hear the thunderous cheers.
The chants of "An-dy, An-dy" that all but blew the roof of the Pepsi Center in Denver back on April 18, 2010, when the Ottawa Senators netminder — then with the Colorado Avalanche — all but singlehandedly took down the mighty San Jose Sharks with a goaltending effort of Herculean proportions.
To date, it remains Anderson's signature performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks came at him in waves that night, outshooting the Avs 51-17, including an astounding 42-7 margin over the final two periods. But he turned aside every shot in what turned out to be a 1-0 overtime triumph over San Jose in Game 3 of their series (his 50 saves without allowing a goal in regulation set a National Hockey League playoff record).
Anderson shakes his head as he recalls the monstrous ovation that overwhelmed him after he was named the game's first star (you can watch a video of it here
"I've got that on tape," said the 30-year-old native of Park Ridge, Ill. "I think that's something my kid (Jake) is going to be watching. It's a (moment) that not many people get to experience. It was a time that I'll never forget. Having the fan support like that, it's euphoria. It just makes your arms tingle, all the hair on the back of your neck stands up ... it's something that you want to repeat.
"It's an experience you want to get to again."
Fast forward to today, when Anderson's goaltending again figures to be front and centre in any hopes the Senators have of upsetting the New York Rangers — the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed — in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The best-of-seven series begins Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
"Craig has played real well for us," head coach Paul MacLean said after putting his team through a one-hour practice session at Scotiabank Place earlier today. "He's given our team a chance to win a lot of games, too, so we have a lot of our confidence in our goalie."
Anderson, whose Avalanche wound up falling to the Sharks in six games in that series two years ago, relishes the opportunity to taste the excitement of the playoffs once again.
"I think that's something my kid (Jake) is going to be watching. It's a (moment) that not many people get to experience. It was a time that I'll never forget. Having the fan support like that, it's euphoria. It just makes your arms tingle, all the hair on the back of your neck stands up ... it's something that you want to repeat. It's an experience you want to get to again." - Craig Anderson
"Every shot matters," he said. "You can’t be satisfied just getting to overtime and getting the extra point ... It’s just wins and losses now. It’s a team game, there’s no longer a skills (competition) at the end of the game to see who gets the extra point. Everything really comes down to making the big save for the guys, giving the team the opportunity to (win)."
Some will try to paint this series as a matchup between Anderson and Rangers counterpart Henrik Lundqvist, a likely finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. But the Senators' No. 1 stopper knows he's just one piece of a much larger puzzle.
"It all comes down to the team," said Anderson. "You’re only one player. You’re one guy doing your job. I can’t shoot on Henrik and he can’t shoot on me. As far as having a 0-0 tie and going past the first round … that ain’t going to happen. Somebody’s got to score. It could be a bad bounce, it could be a power play. Who knows what’s going to be the difference in the game and the series? At the end of the day, it’s about giving the team a chance to win."
Two years ago, his Avs were huge underdogs against a Sharks team that would go on to reach the Western Conference final. It's a similar situation again, with few predicting the eighth-seeded Senators can take down the Blueshirts. But Anderson knows funny things can happen at this time of the year — and that there's no place he'd rather be.
"It was uplifting," he said of his playoff experience in 2010. "You knew the city was behind you and you knew you had that emotion behind you. It was one of those things where anything can happen. We had a hard-fought battle and it was one of those (situations) where, if a couple of bounces could have gone our way, we could have ended up winning that series."
Anderson can't wait to see the reception that Sens Army faithful will give his team on April 16 and 18, when Games 3 and 4 are scheduled at Scotiabank Place.
"Outrageous," he said when asked about the type of fan reaction he'll see. "From what I've heard from some of the guys that played here when they went to the Cup final (in 2007), this town just gets out of control. They are hockey nuts, hockey crazy and they're here to support us, as they have been all year. I don't expect anything less (now)."