The Ottawa Senators have always had confidence in goaltender Craig Anderson. But no one anticipated him to be this good, this early.
Anderson, who has a 5-2-1 record in his eight starts, has been one of the hottest goalies in the league so far this season. Entering Monday’s games, he led all NHL netminders with a 1.12 goals-against average and .964 save percentage.
At the start of the season, many hockey observers questioned whether Anderson would be game-ready after the lockout. He spent the first part of the work stoppage in Ottawa skating with his teammates, but later chose to return to his home in Florida where he trained with Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo and goalie coach Francois Allaire.
In the meantime, backup netminder Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner — considered the Senators’ goalie of the future — were playing exceptionally well in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Senators.
Anderson said he’s not one to read the papers or listen to sports radio, but he was aware of the rumblings about his status.
“I think most players thrive on someone telling them they can’t do something,” Anderson said Monday. “It’s usually those players who set their minds to go out and just do it. That’s just the nature of an athlete. I don’t think it’s me in particular, but an attribute in general.”
Anderson, who will make his sixth straight start Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, has yet to allow a regulation goal after the first period this season.
He’s taking all the positive talk in stride, but there’s no denying he feels a little satisfaction in proving people wrong.
“I think my preparation before the start of the season was the key to that,” Anderson said with a little smile.
Many NHL goaltenders are known for their outlandish style or quirky comments. Anderson is different — he prefers to keep things simple and low-key.
“He doesn’t get carried away either way if it goes good or bad,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “He’s a real interesting goalie in terms of he’s one of those guys that’s technically good, but he relies on his instincts and ability to read the game and anticipate.
“And I think that’s why he’s been so good is because he anticipates so well and can get to those unstoppable saves.”
His play has become even more important with the team’s offence sputtering after the loss of Jason Spezza due to back surgery.
“When you see night in and night out he’s keeping you in the game it builds confidence within the team, there’s no question,” said Alfredsson. “It’s really nice to have a guy like that.”
Ottawa’s blue-line has undergone major changes with three rookie defencemen and the addition of newcomer Marc Methot. Anderson’s steady play has allowed the group to play with a sense of confidence.
“If you get burned once in a while or someone gets an opportunity, I’m confident he’ll make that save,” said Methot. “He’s such a confident goaltender that I feel it resonates through the rest of the defence. You just know with Andy back there you have a chance to win the game.
“It’s amazing what a great goaltender does for a team.”
Notes: The Senators have recalled forward Stephane Da Costa from Binghamton. Da Costa, who had nine goals and 15 assists in 31 games with the AHL club, is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday. ... It appears Mika Zibanejad could get an opportunity to play on the top line. He skated on the left side with Daniel Alfredsson and Kyle Turris during Monday’s skate. a Defenceman Sergei Gonchar and right-winger Guillaume Latendresse missed practice and are questionable for Tuesday’s game.