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FTB: Frederik Andersen starts, is he ready?

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Was the AHL stint enough?

NHL: Player Headshots 2021
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL goaltender Frederik Andersen
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly two months since his injury, Frederik Andersen is back between the pipes for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His departure came in the middle of the team’s lone dip in results and was quickly buoyed by the emergence of Jack Campbell. While many have felt comfortable moving on from the team’s starting goalie for five years, the Leafs have invested in Andersen’s return, both in terms of playing time and the salary cap.

What was wrong

We know Andersen’s injury was “something around his knee” and it caused him to lost some mobility in terms of pushing and stopping for pucks. When Andersen joined the Toronto Marlies for his AHL conditioning stint, those limitations were still there, especially in the beginning.

How the AHL stint went

His first game, which was only scheduled for 30 minutes, really felt like a pass/fail test for his knee to make sure all systems were functioning. He didn’t push himself at all, which worried pretty much everyone who watched, including me.

In the second game, I was hoping to see a full 60 minutes where he was pushing to the limits it would feel in a meaningful NHL game. Unfortunately, he gave up three goals in a little more than 20 minutes. His big issue was drifting past his stopping point as the puck came on two goals. One, he was moving too far to the left as the puck went right, and on the second he was moving into his net as the puck went high.

However, Andersen’s second half showed a lot of promise. He was moving and reacting to pucks at what felt like fast forward compared to his play before that. The 6’4” goaltender was diving for rebounds and covering them up, making that second effort, moving aggressively. It’s like he was moving on instinct rather than focused on where his body was. He even got out of his net to play the puck and hit a forward with a three-line stretch pass (I do not condone those from goaltenders).

Takeaways

Apparently that period and a bit of feeling dialed in and moving on instinct was all he and the Leafs needed to end his conditioning stint at only one and a half games and bring him back to the NHL for his start against the hot Ottawa Senators tonight.

After his first AHL game, I was extremely worried about Andersen’s future in the short and medium term. After the first half of the second game, I was more downtrodden. But by the end of that second game, despite giving up another goal in the third and eventually losing in a shootout, it looked like he was at least ready to give it a try.

When the injury took hold and Andersen had that slow fall from grace, we saw Campbell give his second efforts full beans. Campbell can really extend himself and explode towards the puck when he needs to against rushes and rebounds, that was something I didn’t see out of Andersen before he went on LTIR. Thankfully, it has come back as we saw it a few times for the Marlies as the team was mounting a comeback. It was a big relief to see those moments out of him. He’s capable of trying that extra 10%, he just needed to be healthy.

How the Leafs can afford to bring him back before the playoffs

I have no idea, but Zach Hyman is on LTIR now and Rasmus Sandin was moved to the Taxi Squad.

Various Leafs and Branches

Maple Leafs work some cap magic: Frederik Andersen to start on Wednesday | by: Katya

European Report: A champion is crowned | by: Katya

31 Thoughts: Eichel whatever and Ryan Hardy potentially joining the Leafs | by: Elliotte Friedman

“How Maple Leafs stretched themselves to build deepest team yet” | by: Chris Johnston

What Wayne Simmonds is showing us about the sacred relationship between a Black man and his barber | by: Shalise Manza Young

That last one is a must-read.

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