Monday, April 29, 2013

Once Again, Underrate Anderson At Your Own Peril

It was a strange feeling waking up today and immediately hearing that Senators fans were somehow talking about a goaltending controversy heading into the Montreal series.

And when I say “strange feeling”, I mean that feeling where everyone around you has gone backwoods crazy and that sane people would be smart to stay off social media like Twitter to avoid permanent brain damage in the next few days.

All of this after a game where Robin Lehner steps in to relieve clear-cut first-string goalie Craig Anderson in a back-to-back situation, plays fairly well, allows two goals - one of which was soft - and suddenly he’s the guy to beat Carey Price.


It was the same thing going into the season. Everyone was doubting Anderson because he hadn’t played hockey overseas during the lockout. Mainstream columnists were openly calling for Lehner to start in net. I felt the same way then as I do right now – Underrate Anderson At Your Own Peril.

It’s the shiny new toy syndrome. Lehner is popular with fans because there’s no blemishes. He hasn’t been around long enough to write a postcard home, let alone supplant one of the best goaltenders in the entire league this season.

I just don’t get the logic or even the emotion behind it. Anderson almost singlehandedly carried this team to the playoffs when he was healthy but all Lehner had to do was finally beat the Boston Bruins after 5 tries and suddenly he’s a groundswell candidate to lead this team past the Habs.

Now, I realize I’m exaggerating to make a point here. Most Senators fans (I assume) are still counting on Anderson, a possible Vezina candidate in the prime of his career, to start the series and hopefully they’ll be cheering him on out there.

Yet the fact that the argument is even out there tells me this goes beyond just a few radio hosts trying to drum up content for the next three days, waiting for this first-round series to start. It tells me that this city hasn’t fully embraced Anderson as a fan favourite, and that astounds me.

Sure, Anderson isn’t exactly a bubbly personality or cozy with the local media, but neither is Lehner. I’m not sure there’s been a more stonefaced interview with the media than Lehner since Dany Heatley (no comparison to Heatley otherwise - relax). He’s a serious dude with little time for pleasantries. And that’s fine. But it doesn’t explain his popularity with fans as opposed to Anderson.

Rather, it’s the unfortunate trap of falling in love with prospects because they’re new while the veterans – the guys who will actually win you a playoff series and the Stanley Cup – are old news and don’t appeal to the new breed of hockey fan who watches hockey games through their Twitter feed instead of their own eyes.

Lehner is going to be a good, if not great goalie one day. Anderson is a great goalie TODAY. How is there even a debate about this? Because of one game where Lehner only let in two goals?

It’s amazing what you can come up with when you overthink the game to the point where up is down, and elite goaltenders can become bums overnight. It’s just amazing.


Oman said...

That is "internet think" for you. I agree fully. Anderson will start.

I'm kinda surprised you didn't write a post about Neil taking on Lucic though... That may be one case where I think fighting is effective. When a schoolyard bully is running around pummelling kids, sometimes it only takes one strong kid to stand up to him and he cools off. Too bad it has to come down to bully management issues at such an elite level, but that's another argument...

Cameron Lusk said...

I noticed a gem on twitter. Habs will win because Anderson has never won a playoff series. Cuz that's a good reason!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. You do a great job. This was one of your weaker posts.

Anonymous said...

No I liked the blog, it brings out some really common sense thoughts. However, your analysis is somewhat superficial. We should have touched on:

1) RL has won a championship at a professional level, ie the calder cup. On a weak(er) team. No this was not at the NHL level, but it counts and counts a lot.

2) Anderson does not have a proven playoff experience. In fact the only playoff experience he has is somewhat poor: He has let in 30 goals in 14 playoff games for 5 wins. BUT, this is at a minimum NHL experience.

Michael said...

Oh man, there are so many issues with the Senators having a Mr.Magoo shot average and people pick on the goaltender? Sigh.

Goaltending is fine. Defense has some gaping holes but the good outweighs the bad. Offense is like that basketball scene in Pleasantville after the guy got laid.

Anonymous said...

Anderson has never won a playoff series in his life. Fans are right to doubt him until he accomplishes this task.

Lehner, on the other hand, HAS won. He's carried a team to the Calder Cup and has shown again and again he can make tough saves and keep the team in games.

Anderson will make the start of course, but I'd have the hook ready in a jiffy. One bad goal on Andy's part, or one EARLY goal or one FIRST goal in a game, and Mac should bench him.

Lehner IS a winner. Anderson? He is not.

Oman said...

Dude. You'll ruin a goalie's confidence if you bench him for one bad goal. ALL goalies let in a bad one once in a while. Put a goalie on a short leash and you'll doom him. At this level often the biggest factor is confidence.

Anonymous said...

AND we have Anderson for 4 (or three) more seasons at $3.875/yr

There is no way they aren't going to give Andy every opportunity to prove himself