Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen hasn’t played since March 19th, and having not travelled with the team on their road trip, it looks as if Andersen won’t play before the playoffs start. Despite not playing however, if fully fit, Andersen should be given the nod for Game 1 of the playoffs.
There is reason behind giving Andersen the first game of the playoff series, no matter who the Toronto Maple Leafs play, but of course the biggest factor behind that statement is if Andersen is fit and ready.
The simple answer is, playing Andersen in Game 1 when there are games that can be lost is better than being forced to throw him in Game 3 or Game 4 when the margin for error is much smaller.
Jack Campbell has been very good for the Leafs. Indeed, Campbell might be the Toronto Maple Leafs starter next season, or at the very least part of a 1a/1b tandem in net. However, on their day, Andersen is a better goalie than Campbell.
Toronto Maple Leafs Should Start Andersen
Yes, Andersen hasn’t played since mid March, and yes it is a risk but it isn’t like Campbell has been injury free and there is every chance that if Andersen is fully healthy he could steal you a series.
I have been out on Frederik Andersen since the beginning of this year. Right at the start when he was playing well, a piece outlining why the Leafs should let Andersen walk at the end of the year regardless attracted a lot of negativity. It’s hard to say now, looking at how his season has unfolded that I was wrong then.
This is also not to say that my opinion of Andersen or his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs has changed. He has been excellent for large swaths of his Toronto career, the Leafs wouldn’t be where they are today without his goaltending, he has kept them in games and playoff series, and still, he should not be re-signed.
He is injury-prone, will be expensive and we might never see him reach the same level of play he showed at his peak. However, Toronto has to put themselves in the best possible position to win a cup, and a fighting fit Andersen is the best goalie in the organization. He shouldn’t come back next season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an option this season.
This is the best year for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make a deep run. The Leafs are comfortably the best team in the North and with a fully fit Andersen and Campbell, they could have the best 1-2 goalie punch in the post-season.
Campbell has made that goal his own in Andersen’s absence, but he has had his own injuries over the course of the season. He is reliable in net but this is what it comes down to: if the Leafs get to a Game 3 or Game 4 down two games and Campbell hasn’t worked out, all of a sudden you could be forced to play a very cold Frederik Andersen.
If Andersen flops in Game 1 then you know you still have a good alternative in Campbell. Starting Andersen just creates more options. If the Leafs give Andersen the shot right off the bat then Sheldon Keefe is giving himself some leeway because the series is still wide open, to throw him in later is a recipe for disaster when you can’t afford to make any mistakes.
Toronto has an excellent chance to go deep in the post-season, but as always it will come down to goaltending. Jack Campbell might end up being the guy, but if Toronto is going to give Andersen a shot, the only time the Toronto Maple Leafs can play Andersen is Game 1, after that the games become too important to risk it.