Florida-bound team relying heavily on goalie Anderson
At the end of his post-game media session on Thursday night, Senators coach Guy Boucher was once again heaping praise on his goalie.
“We’ve been drawing a lot of energy and confidence off him,” he said of Craig Anderson.
While this is no doubt true, against the Vegas Golden Knights the Senators also drew some frustration off Anderson. Boucher, too. And it may have cost them any chance of another comeback.
The ruling on the controversial fifth Vegas goal in what turned out to be a 5-3 Senators loss was correct. Not only did Anderson come out of his crease to bump William Carrier, he also tripped the Golden Knights winger while in the act of kicking out his right leg at a puck that had already hit the end boards.
Carrier remained on top of him while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare sealed the Senators’ fate.
Both Anderson and Boucher were the focus when the call came down that there was no goalie interference on the play. Anderson held his arms out in a WTF expression a number of times and he was still having discussions with referee Corey Syvret a few whistles later. Boucher wore a classic look of stunned disbelief.
Later, he said the officials’ decision deflated his players, who all entered the third period believing they were going to come back and win the game. It looked like that might be the case when the Senators scored three unanswered goals to tie it up.
“I think that fourth (Vegas goal), it’s our fault, we weren’t strong enough on our one-onones there,” said Boucher. “That hurt, but you’re only one goal away, you know you’re playing well, you’ve got momentum. Yeah, it hurt. It hurt. It was a deflator. There was frustration. We had to work hard to get the frustration away. To get focused. To try to get another goal. That was a tough one.”
Moving on from such disappointment is part of the maturation process for a young team. The leaders, and that includes the coach, have to lead the way.
“It’s human nature,” Boucher said of passionate, if misguided reactions to negative decisions. “Me the first. I was 100 per cent sure this was going to be goalie interference ... It’s just mind boggling. By the time you get rid of the frustration and all that, it’s two goals. If it was one goal, it might have been different. Guys pushed after, but it was tough.
“But hey, I liked the pushback in the third period. I liked some of our guys’ games from the beginning.”
One of those guys was his 37-year old workhorse goalie.
Anderson, who has been the most media-available Senator this season, did not speak to reporters after the game. He could be heard from the back, off-limits area of the dressing room, however, and he was still angry with the call.
Perhaps there was more to his disposition than the ruling. Maybe it was a buildup of things.
The Senators were outshot 42-30. While making 37 saves, Anderson had 81 shots fired his way (24 were blocked, 15 went wide) to keep him on his toes for most of the night once again. Heading into Friday’s action, he led the league in shots faced (by 90), saves made (by 70) and goals allowed (by 10).
He’ll have a good chance at padding those totals when he starts Saturday against the Lightning. Boucher made that call on Friday, when the team practised in Tampa. The Senators’ 17th game will be Anderson’s 15th start and 16th appearance.
Back in his home state, Anderson admitted he was “a little upset” after the loss to Vegas.
“At the end of the day, it’s not the call we wanted but you have to live with it,” he told reporters. “You can’t change what they say and what they do. You move on, and try to understand as best you can going forward so you’re more knowledgeable about it.
“I’ve watched the film. for the most part I’m trying to play the puck and the majority in my crease. It’s one of those things where my view is different than somebody else’s view, and I don’t make the decisions.
“I just want some clarity.” What he’s going to get soon is a seat, as Boucher also stated Mike McKenna would face the Florida Panthers on Sunday in Sunrise.
Of course that was also the plan for last weekend’s back-to-back games, but it didn’t quite stick to script. While the Senators played one of the most embarrassing games in franchise history, it gave Boucher the opportunity to pull Anderson three goals into a 9-2 loss at the hands of the Sabres.
The next day Anderson made 41 stops to help Ottawa steal an overtime point against Tampa. For the second straight weekend, he faces Steve Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and company.
“It’s warm here, it’s nice,” said Anderson. “We’re coming into a good building (Saturday). There’s going to be a lot of energy. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
The Senators will need that, and Anderson providing the energy and confidence his teammates can draw from.
Senators goalie Craig Anderson makes a save as Tampa Bay Lightning winter Nikita Kucherov looks for a rebound during last weekend’s game in Ottawa. When the two teams meet again today, expect Anderson to face another barrage of shots.