We all know that there seems to be a blind spot surrounding Anaheim for most of the NHL discussions, however what will it take for people to stop asking for proof when there's any case made for the talent on the Ducks' roster?
The perfect example is Anaheim's netminder, Frederik Andersen.
After quite the impressive list of accomplishments from his time playing in Europe (including breaking a shutout record previously held by Swedish phenom Henrik Lundqvist), people still seemed to doubt the plausibility of Andersen's talent translating into a strong NHL career.
Don't get me wrong, I understand that playing in sunny southern California leads to some anonymity when it comes to the players, but there's unfamiliarity and then there's downright doubt.
After Anaheim chose to let the proven Jonas Hiller walk via free agency, so many naysayers surfaced chastising the decision. However the Ducks opted to rely on the young goaltending duo of at the time 24-year old Andersen and 21-year-old John Gibson, and from where I sit, the tandem proved up to the task.
So let's start with some stats, in his 52 starts in goal, Andersen won 35 times, ending the regular season with a .913 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average.
Take into consideration some more detailed statistics courtesy of War-on-ice.com (as broken down here) Andersen improved in his save percentages when facing shots from both the medium-risk and high-risk segments of the ice, and the low-risk percentage, although it did drop admittedly, it also can be partially attributed to some turbulent play from Anaheim's defense.
Andersen backstopped the Ducks to another top finish in the Pacific Division and Western Conference during the regular season, and 2nd place in the NHL behind only the New York Rangers. What more will it take for the NHL to see Freddie as a starting-goalie caliber player?
During the off-season leading into the 2014-15 season, Andersen worked hard to fine-tune and improve every aspect of his goaltending game. Over the summer of 2014, Freddie dropped 20 pounds while also strengthening up, packing on muscle and cutting his body fat by one-third through some unorthodox training techniques, including learning from the nearby baseball team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Andersen seems willing to try anything and everything to reach his ultimate potential, specifically through his physicality, his vision, and his mindset and approach to every game and every save. Some have begun comparing his style of goaltending to Montreal's Carey Price, and for a good reason. There seems to be a parallel approach to stopping pucks between the two netminders that focuses on the calmness, efficiency, on-point positioning, strength and all-around athleticism.
In the opening month of the 14-15 season the "Great Dane" won seven of eights games played, which resulted in just 13 goals allowed over the eight contests and an impressive .941 save percentage for the month of October.
On March 3rd, Andersen tied the record for the fewest NHL games required to reach 50 career wins in 68 contests matching the record set in 1944 by Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens.
|2014-15 Regular Season||Anaheim Ducks||NHL||54||35-12-5||2.38||.914||3|
|2014-15 Playoffs||Anaheim Ducks||NHL||16||11-5-0||2.34||.913||1|
We all know and appreciate that the roster that plays in front of Andersen is stacked pretty impressively with offensive firepower, however throughout the 14-15 season, there was a total of 15 defensemen who played on Anaheim's revolving door of a blue line.
So when you take into consideration there were so many different players who dressed for each game, Andersen didn't really had the chance to create a genuine chemistry with one set of six defenders. There was never the connection established with players who could predict exactly what the goaltender's instinctual action will be in any given circumstance.
Despite playing without that foundation with the defensemen, Andersen still ended the season with a 35-12-5 record in the regular season, and an impressive 11-5 record in the team's playoff run.
What impact did Freddie have on the Ducks? Well, it's been said that the goaltender's job is to give his team a chance to win games. Andersen not only gave the Ducks a chance to win almost every game he played in, but some nights it was solely his play that carried the team to a win.
Is the league ready to acknowledge his talent yet?