The Anaheim Ducks have gotten some stellar goaltending out of 25-year-old Frederik Andersen this postseason, but the young Dane’s last three games have certainly left something to be desired.
After giving up just five goals in the first three games of the series, Andersen has now allowed 13 over the last three, surrendering four goals in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The loss means the Ducks will have to return to the Honda Center on Saturday night to try to finish the series off, and Andersen has continued to struggle after looking nearly unbeatable early on in this series.
In Game 6, Andersen faced just 22 shots on goal. Two of the four goals were tough to stop: Andrew Shaw’s perfectly executed top-shelf wrist shot and Marian Hossa’s quick one-timer off a feed from Duncan Keith. But Andersen did let in a couple of soft goals as well. He was undressed on Brandon Saad’s breakaway goal in the second period and he didn’t have a particularly strong effort on Patrick Kane’s drive to the net for the Hawks’ third goal, allowing the puck to squeak in between his leg pads and across the goal line as the Hawks seized the lead.
If those were the only two questionable goals that Andersen had allowed recently, one could simply chalk it up to regression to the mean after a really hot start to the series. Instead, they are simply a continuation of a pattern of inconsistent play. In Game 4, the game-tying goal that Andersen allowed on a Kane power play tally was woefully bad, with the puck barely touched by the Hawks’ winger yet still rolling into the cage. Game 5 saw a similarly bad goal, with Jonathan Toews’ shot out of the corner with less than 40 seconds remaining in regulation somehow getting underneath Andersen and banking into the net off of his skate.
With those struggles in mind, the question will undoubtedly be asked before Game 7: should John Gibson get the start in net over Andersen? After all, this is a win-or-go-home situation for the Ducks, and Andersen has been struggling in a big way. Are his miscues serious enough to warrant a benching? Should Bruce Boudreau make a change in net to try to spark his team in the critical game?
The likely answer here, and arguably the correct one, is no. If Boudreau was going to go to a different goaltender in this series, he should’ve brought Gibson into the fold for Game 6. Throwing him into the fire for a Game 7 after he’s sat out for the entire postseason would be a recipe for disaster, and it's too late in the game to be making that kind of change in net.
Like it or not, this is Andersen’s series to win, and he has to prove that he is still the goaltender that stood on his head earlier in the series and not the one that has looked all too mortal in recent games.