With every passing start — and subsequent victory, more often than not — Freddie Andersen is playing himself deeper and deeper into the Vezina Trophy conversation.
The Maple Leafs netminder has been an absolute beast this season and that prowess carried right into Wednesday’s tilt against the Blue Jackets. Andersen faced, and stopped, the most shots in a single game of his career as he turned aside 54 of 57 in a 6-3 Toronto win. Not only did he make an abundance of stops, but 28 of the 57 pucks he faced registered as scoring chances — with 11 of those being from high-danger areas.
No. 31 had some mind-blowing stuff working tonight, especially with his legs:
— Richard Lee-Sam (@RLeesam) February 15, 2018
Andersen, who has established himself as a top five (dare I say, top three?) goaltender this season, is proving he plays at his peak when he’s busy. The 28-year-old leads the NHL in a variety of workload-related statistical categories, including games played (49), minutes (2931), shots against (1667), and saves (1537). Through it all, Andersen ranks 2nd in the league with 29 wins and is tied for 7th with a .922 save percentage.
The most telling metrics of Andersen’s importance to the club: He’s faced 40-plus shots an astounding eight times this season, and he’s yet to lose in regulation in any of those contests, going 6-0-2. His Goals Saved Above Average in all situations (19.41) ranks fourth in the NHL.
Andersen was so out-of-his-mind good on Wednesday that his night will overshadow one of the best single-game performances by a Leafs forward in the past decade, as Nazem Kadri notched three goals and a pair of helpers to complete the second five-point game from a member of the team’s second unit in a week.
Before Saturday only two Leafs in 10 years had notched five points in a game. Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner have both done it now in the last 5 days.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) February 15, 2018
Crazy stuff happening all around in Leafs Land tonight, but Andersen’s performance was something truly special and even more rare. He became the first Leafs goalie to record 50-plus saves in a regular season victory since Ed Belfour did it way back in 2003, and Andersen is one of only four Toronto netminders to ever accomplish the feat. It was the second-most saves in a regular season win, ranking behind only Mike Palamateer’s 56-stop performance in 1977 — more than 41 years ago.
When you take a look around the league, there aren’t many ‘tenders out there the Maple Leafs would rather have leading them into the playoffs than the one they have right now.
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