If there was one thing made abundantly clear over the past two seasons, it’s this: as Freddie Andersen goes, so do the Maple Leafs.
Through the first four games of Toronto’s opening-round series against the Bruins, he has not gone well, and neither have things for the Leafs who find themselves mired in a 3-1 hole and trending in the wrong direction heading back to Boston for Game 5. Andersen can’t score goals, fix the power play, prevent bonehead penalties or stop his D-men from making egregious decisions on pinches and gap control, but he can, indeed, stop the puck — something he hasn’t been doing at the rate we’re used to seeing from Toronto’s regular-season MVP.
Andersen saw his share of work this season and handled it admirably, ranking second among qualified goaltenders in games (66), third in minutes (3,888), and first in both shots against (2,211) and saves (2,029). The 28-year-old thrived despite the heavy workload posting a .918 save percentage in all situations and was especially good in games where he saw 40-plus pucks — boasting a 9-0-3 and stopping 95.3 percent of all shots he faced in those games.
When the young core needed a pick-me-up, Andersen was there to answer the bell. In the postseason, however, it’s been a much different story. The Maple Leafs netminder has posted an .880 save percentage in all situations, fourth-worst among the 18 goalies that have seen action in the first round. His low-danger save percentage has also dipped nearly 20 points, highlighting an issue with his play this series we haven’t been used to seeing with Andersen his last two seasons in Toronto — he’s letting in too many bad goals.
Andersen looks scrambled. He’s dropping to early, pushing across too late, looks tentative with traffic in front and isn’t sealing off the holes like he has been all year.
Despite an awful pinch by Travis Dermott and terrible 2-on-1 defending by Roman Polak, Andersen played the shooter to aggressively, reacted to late, and was soft with his push (not getting his leg and skate blade perpendicular enough to the ice) across on Jake DeBrusk’s insurance goal in the third period of Game 4.
It’s also very strange to see Freddie’s patience in shambles, as the Bruins have been timing and targeting the majority of their shots towards the top corners, especially on Andersen’s blocker side. Torey Krug’s back-breaking tally just 30 seconds into Game 4 is a prime example, with Krug floating a shot from the point that somehow beat Andersen over the right should just second after David Pastrnak zipped a backhand aimed at that same corner but just missed.
Zdeno Chara also exposed the upper part of the net on Andersen on his game-tying goal in Game 3, when the big man greased one into the top corner, again over Andersen’s right shoulder, as the Maple Leafs goaltender once again dropped to his knees way to early—giving Chara an opening from an angle where there should’ve been none.
Another ill-timed error on Andersen’s part happened earlier in that same period in Game 3, when noted sniper Adam McQuaid found a hole under Andersen’s left pad. Seemingly unable to track the puck after McQuaid’s release, Andersen was late dropping this time, allowing the puck to find the back of the net through the small space between Freddie’s left pad and the ice. His stick was nowhere to be found, either.
Those are just a few examples of Andersen’s perils this series, but it’s more than enough evidence to make one thing very clear: the Maple Leafs netminder is struggling, for whatever reasons, with some key fundamentals — tracking the puck, timing his movement, reading and reacting to situations and patience, to name a few.
Not only does Andersen have to eliminate the greasy ones, and there’s been several in just four games this series, he has to steal a couple for Toronto to have any chance in coming back against an offensive juggernaut like the Bruins.