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Maple Leafs Goaltender Frederik Andersen's Performance Affirms his Spot at No. 2 Before Playoffs

Playing in his first NHL game in nearly two months, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen looked rusty but improved as the game went along. He'll be a fine option should Jack Campbell go through the motions or get hurt during the playoffs.

OTTAWA -- Frederik Andersen didn't dwell on the fact that he allowed four goals on 28 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender was more concerned about getting back to his old healthy self.

"I think that's a big relief for me for what I've been going through the last three months," Andersen said. "(I'm) kind of back to moving the way I needed to move."

Andersen made his long-awaited return on Wednesday. His short-term future came into question following his last NHL game on Mar. 19 when he stepped away from the lineup to deal with a nagging knee injury, an ailment that kept him out of the lineup for two weeks in late February.

As far as his performance goes, Andersen was ok in goal. 

The first goal allowed was a heavy screen that appeared to go off defenseman Ben Hutton and into the goal.

The second and third goals allowed is where Andersen got a bit squirrely.

Senators forward Connor Brown had a breakaway while shorthanded. Andersen made the initial stop but lost sight of the puck. That caused him to scramble and lose his position. Before he could recover, Brown was able to pick up his rebound and score.

Senators forward Parker Kelly scored his first NHL goal when Andersen lost his spot as the puck went behind the net. Andersen got a toe on the puck, but wasn't able to stop it from just barely crossing the goal line.

The overtime goal surrendered was a 2-on-1 chance for Ottawa set up by a blind turnover over by Mitch Marner. It's a 3-on-3 OT situation that the Leafs won't encounter once the playoffs begin.

"Some weird plays and some unfortunate bounces," Andersen said. "Maybe that's rust, maybe if I do a few things differently those are saves."

As Andersen recovered from his injury, backup goaltender Jack Campbell thrived in the starter's role. Campbell set a new NHL record for wins to start a season (11) and he's continued to perform well, with the exception of a three-game losing streak shortly after his record-setting accomplishment.

Campbell is expected to start in goal for the regular-season finale against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Campbell is 17-2-2 with a .923 save percentage.

Since Campbell's emergence, there really was no debate as to which goalie starts in the playoffs next week against the Montreal Canadiens. Yet, the mere presence of Andersen and the cap maneuvering to get him on activated to the roster was a source for much consternation among Leafs fans on social media.

Perhaps much of this stems from the past.

Before Andersen was traded to Toronto and signed to a five-year, $25 million contract in 2016, the Leafs were unable to avoid goaltending controversies. There was  the Jonthan Bernier vs. James Reimer debacle from the previous three seasons. Before Bernier's arrival in 2013, It was Ben Scrivens, and not James Reimer who started in the first game of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

When Leafs supporters love a particular goaltender, they express feelings when there is any notion that a good thing can be taken away from them. Perhaps that's where this angst regarding Andersen comes from.

But this game was not about Andersen starting in the playoffs. If it were, the team likely would have activated him earlier. Andersen probably would likely have played in the regular season finale as well if the plan had deviated. This was more about getting Andersen some reps in the event they need to go to him. 

It wasn't a slam dunk that Andersen would have been permitted to return. Had forwards Zach Hyman and defenseman Zach Bogosian stayed healthy, Andersen is likely stuck on long-term injured reserve with no escape until the playoffs when the salary cap is no longer applicable.

The Maple Leafs had an opportunity thanks to those injuries to get Andersen some NHL reps before the playoffs. It was the most prudent course of action. 

"He got through the game and he moved well, that's what stood out and that's really what the game was about," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Andersen. "Just getting through the 60 minutes and feeling good and by all accounts it seems like that was the case."

This is hardly the endorsement of a starter.

Had the Leafs gone into the playoffs with Campbell and the goaltender struggled, there would have been some criticism as to why Andersen didn't get some proper reps in before the playoffs began. Especially when the circumstances had been outlined.

Does one NHL start make a difference compared to none? It's hard to say. But the rust has been shaken out and Andersen is a fine option should he be called upon.

The Leafs had to find out where Andersen is at. Now they know.


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