The strong play of the Toronto Maple Leafs over the past 20 games has masked significant goaltending issues that are now coming to the surface.
Frederik Andersen is a model of consistency. While his .912 SV% won’t necessarily turn heads, he can unfailingly be trusted to post a save percentage approaching .918 by season’s end. But how long can the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to give Andersen such a heavy workload?
Andersen is on track to play in 64 games this season, which would be his fourth straight season to play in over 60 games. He has also played more games in those four seasons than any other goaltender in the NHL.
Probability suggests that Andersen’s workload will eventually catch up to him in the form of an injury or fatigue that affects his play. At that point, the Leafs would be forced to lean on their backup goaltender, something they have clearly been uncomfortable doing to date.
Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie Problems
Backup goaltending has been a resurfacing issue for much of the last two seasons. Despite a poor start to the season for Michael Hutchinson, Leafs management expressed confidence in him as the team’s backup. After posting a stretch of three straight wins and a .945 SV% a few weeks ago, the team appeared to have rallied behind him.
However, a goalie’s body of work speaks louder than a sample size of four games in the midst of a winning stretch. Hutchinson’s .885 SV% and 3.83 GAA on the season are both 2nd last among goalies with 10 or more starts.
Over the past three seasons, Hutchinson’s expected save percentage based on the quality of the shots he has faced is .904, but his actual SV% is .887. The difference between his expected and actual save percentage is 5th last among goaltenders that have played 20 or more games over those 3 seasons.
To put matters in the simplest terms, if Frederik Andersen was hypothetically injured for the playoffs, would the Leafs have a realistic hope of winning the Stanley Cup with Michael Hutchinson in net? Likely not.
The Leafs need to address the elephant in the room and acquire a backup goaltender that can reduce Andersen’s workload and perform at a high level if Andersen faces injury trouble.
Backup goaltenders are relatively inexpensive on the trade market and the Leafs have a stockpile of late round picks in the 2020 draft (three 6th round picks and four 7th round picks) that could be packaged to acquire a goaltender without weakening the current roster.
However the Toronto Maple Leafs decide to go about their goaltending situation, a prudent first step should be addressing that the team has significant room for improvement in goal.