Maple Leafs' Frederick Andersen much more comfortable to start year two

TORONTO — Frederik Andersen’s career as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs did not get off to a rousing start, to say the least.

Expectations were high for the 27-year-old goaltender who had reached Game 7 of the Western Conference Final with Anaheim in 2015 and won the Jennings Trophy in 2016, awarded to the goaltender playing for the team with the fewest goals-against.

Acquired by the Maple Leafs for two high draft picks in June 2016, Andersen suffered a shoulder injury in an Olympic qualifier for Denmark, missed the World Cup of Hockey and most of training camp, and had difficulty adjusting to his new surroundings.

In his first month with Toronto, Andersen had a 3.67 goals-against average, an .876 save percentage, and lost five of seven starts, raising questions as to if the Maple Leafs had again failed in their pursuit of finding a quality starting goalie, akin to Vesa Toskala and Jonathan Bernier.

Andersen eventually righted himself, finishing the season with 33 wins and becoming the backbone of the club between the pipes.

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In his second tour of duty in Toronto, Andersen was fully healthy in the offseason, and able to fully prepare for what and the Leafs hope is a long year.

"I think (being injured) took away an (opportunity) of working on my game. Instead I had to rehab," he said. "Getting to know a lot of new guys had a lot to do with it as well. (This season), it’s nice to have that feeling of being home. I feel at home (in Toronto) now. I don’t feel like I need to do anything outside the rink — just go and do my job — and that’s always a good feeling.”

The netminder played a career-high 66 games with the Leafs last season, in part because head coach Mike Babcock did not much confidence in his backups until veteran Curtis McElhinney was claimed from Columbus in January. This season, Andersen has prepared for the possibility of playing the bulk of Toronto’s games, consulting a nutritionist over the summer and coming to camp in what he said was the best condition of his career.

“(Playing most of the time is) the reasoning behind what we did in the offseason," Andersen said. "You’ve got to be in better shape just to be able to play well at the end of games and that’s going to add up in the long run. The harder the games feel, the more you’re going to dip into your energy levels. If you can only use a little bit every time and feel like you’re still working hard, it adds up over a long season. That’s what makes a difference (when you’re) playing a lot, compared to a moderate amount.”

Andersen has started in each of the Leafs' first three games (all victories) and will make his fourth straight start against the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

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Toronto has provided a ton of offensive support, leading the NHL with 19 goals, but it has still needed its goaltender to come up big. In the season opener, the Leafs took four minor penalties in the first period against the Jets, but Andersen kept the game scoreless, stopping all 17 Winnipeg shots.

In the home opener against the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Leafs defense did not provide much help, coughing up a 5-1 first-period lead, but Andersen came up big in the third with the game tied 5-5, making a pair of critical saves to steady the ship until the Leafs' offense took over the wheel.

“I’ve been struggling a bit with some unfortunate bounces," Andersen said. "I just keep with it, keep working and I know (the bounces) are going to change or it’s going to start (going) my way. "Luckily we’ve been scoring at will almost and it’s gotten us six points so far.”

Source : https://sports.yahoo.com/news/maple-leafs-apos-andersen-much-205101142.html

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