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Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Andersen and Keefe discuss coach’s quick decision to pull goaltender

The Maple Leafs lost to the Oilers for the first time in the Auston Matthews era last night. The biggest talking point after the game was Sheldon Keefe’s decision to pull Frederik Andersen when the game was very much still in reach and the effect it might have had on a potential comeback.

The teams started off the game with a quick pace with a lot of back-and-forth action, though it was the Oilers who controlled play in the first frame. They fired 33 shot attempts at the Leafs’ net and managed to get 17 of them on the net in the first frame. A few minutes before the end of the first, Oscar Klefbom opened the scoring with a seeing-eye shot from the point that got past a screened Andersen…

The Oilers kept their foot on the gas in the second frame, scoring two quick goals to make the score 3-0. First, Darnell Nurse took a pass in the offensive zone from Connor McDavid and roofed it over Andersen, who was screened in front of the net by a crashing Zack Kassian…

Just over a minute later, Caleb Jones found a wide-open Kailer Yamamoto who was standing completely alone in front of the net for an easy one-timer past Andersen…

That would be it for Andersen, who was pulled after allowing three goals on 19 shots. It certainly wasn’t a banner night for the Leafs’ starting goaltender, but it’s hard to suggest that any of those goals were softies that could be blamed on Andersen. The first two were results of screens in which the defencemen did a poor job of clearing the slot and the third was simply inadequate defensive zone coverage.

Regardless, Andersen came out of the net there and Michael Hutchinson went in. Andersen was visibly bothered by the decision…

The Leafs scored under a minute later to make it 3-1 and it was a completely different hockey game. This is arguably the most potent offence in the league going up against a team that has a hell of a time keeping the puck out of the net with a wildly inconsistent goaltender between the pipes. The three-goal deficit was hardly a huge one for Toronto.

Alex Chiasson would roof a shot over Hutchinson to restore Edmonton’s three-goal lead but the Leafs scored a couple more before the end of the second frame to bring the game to within one goal heading into the third. By then, the ice was tilted in Toronto’s favour as they had 30 shot attempts in all situations to Edmonton’s 13 in the second frame.

It would have been a perfect opportunity for Andersen to redeem himself after a somewhat shaky start, but, instead, the Leafs had to rely on their backup to help them complete the comeback. The Oiler would ice the game in the third period, as Leon Draisaitl wired a power-play snipe past Hutchinson before Connor McDavid went ahead and did this…

Hutchinson allowed three goals on 16 shots and the comeback was denied. After the game, Andersen was noticeably frustrated with Keefe’s decision to pull him so quickly in a game that was far from over at 3-0.

Q: Were you dissapointed to be taken out at that point?

A: Of course. What kind of question is that?

Q: Do you understand it?

A: Yeah, I understand it. That’s his decision. But I want to be in there.

What did Keefe have to say about his decision? He said it came down to not wanting Andersen to have to sit back there behind that poor quality of play from the Leafs coupled with wanting to see if Hutchinson could build on his strong showing over the weekend.

As difficult of a decision as this was to embrace because it might have ultimately cost Toronto their comeback, you can see Keefe’s logic in the situation. Pulling the goalie after telling the players they weren’t playing well enough for them is a damn good way to motivate them and let them know their play wasn’t good enough. Hopefully, this results in the team tightening things up defensively, because allowing the Oilers to drop six goals on you at home isn’t a good look.