Conn Smythe Watch: Freddie Andersen is quietly giving the Leafs his best hockey

“It’s too soon.”
“LOL, Leafs fans.”
“You’ll jinx him.”

These are the comments that I assume will be generated as a result of the title. All are pretty darn fair if you ask me, but I’m going with it anyway. Andersen has been great.

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You see, one of the biggest question marks coming into the playoffs was what Freddie Andersen would show up between the pipes, and at least two games in, it seems we’ve got the best one.

Games Minutes Saves Sv% GSAA xGA GA
Andersen 2 119 53 0.981 3.41 3.94 1
Korpisalo 2 118 64 0.97 3.39 4.94 2

I’m not sure a goaltender’s duel was what was expected heading into this series, but it is what the Leafs and Blue Jackets have landed on. While Andersen might be leading the Return to Play in Sv% and GSAA, immediately behind him is Korpisalo. And perhaps some additional kudos need to be given to Joonas for stopping the Leafs elite forwards, something also needs to be said for Andersen doing it without the help of the a blueline of Columbus’ calibre.

Now, the goal that was scored on Andersen might be one he’d like back…

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An unobstructed low shot from 37 feet out seems like something Andersen should have, but quick transition and great placement by Atkinson makes the goal forgivable, especially with the lack of offensive support to cover up this modest error.

During Andersen’s time with the Leafs we’ve seen strong playoff starts from him before.

Save Percentages by Game

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2020 2019 2018 2017
Game 1 0.971 0.974 0.875 0.932
Game 2 1.000 0.902 0.400 0.940
Game 3 0.944 0.952 0.885
Game 4 0.833 0.857 0.815
Game 5 0.966 0.933 0.929

In 2017, despite being absolutely shelled by the Capitals, Andersen had a strong couple of games to start. Again in 2019, two of his first three games are close to the pace we’ve seen from Andersen this year. The fact that the Leafs didn’t pick up a win in Andersen’s third best performance (by save percentage) in his time with the Leafs is a bit disheartening, as is the fact that in each of those previous years he’s demonstrated a tendency to come back down to earth quickly. In fact, the numbers show he’ll give the Leafs a great chance in three games, but leave it up to the rest of the lineup in the other games. Of course this is also based on save percentage, which is far from perfect.

For a goaltender who was rocky to end the season, and has been a historically slow starter in October, Andersen is doing a great job of showing that he’s bucking trends and playing at his highest level. If this is the beginning of one of his strong stretches you have to be thrilled about it. If we’ve just witnessed a couple of strong games that he can’t follow up on, you have to be a little worried that the Leafs might not be able to outplay the Blue Jackets without him.

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For now we’ll appreciate what Freddie has given us so far, and hope to see more of it in the days to come.

Data from Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference)

Also on Andersen:

What to expect from Frederik Andersen this summer