Could Anderson change goalie dynamic in Bruins-Capitals series? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
One of the advantages the Boston Bruins had over the Washington Capitals entering their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series was goaltending.
Capitals goalies Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov came into the 2021 campaign with zero playoff experience, and both struggled against the B’s during the regular season. On the other side of the ice, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has more than 94 games of postseason experience and the fourth-best playoff save percentage among all active netminders with 25-plus appearances.
Vanecek started Game 1 and couldn’t make it through the first period. He suffered an apparent injury on Jake DeBrusk’s goal at 13:10 of the opening frame and was forced to leave the game.
And just like that, Craig Anderson was thrust into the spotlight for his first playoff appearance since Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final when he played for the Ottawa Senators.
Game 1 observations: Bruins need more offense from top line
The 39-year-old veteran appeared in just four games for the Capitals during the regular season. Despite the limited action, Anderson stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced as the Capitals earned a 3-2 overtime victory in Saturday night’s series opener at Capital One Arena.
The Bruins made Anderson’s life easy by failing to hit the net on more than half of their shot attempts, but you have to respect his gutsy effort in relief.
“When opportunity knocks, you make the most of your opportunity,” Anderson said after the game. “I’ve been here before, so I can share my experiences with Vitek and (Samsonov). To now get the opportunity to live what I’ve been telling them, it’s a great feeling to be involved and be a part of it.”
Could Anderson now play a key role in this series?
We don’t know the severity of Vanecek’s injury. Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t provide any concrete details in his postgame press conference.
Game 2 is Monday night. If Vanecek isn’t able to play and Samsonov isn’t ready after exiting the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols Saturday, Anderson would be the only good option left for Washington.
And he’s certainly not a bad one, either.
Consider this: Anderson’s .929 career save percentage in the playoffs is the second-highest in league history among goaltenders with at least 40 games played. He plays the game with great poise. You’re not going to rattle him easily. In his 2017 playoff run with the Senators, he played four overtime games against the Bruins in the first round and won three of them. He’s now 5-2 versus the Bruins in his postseason career.
Anderson also is one of the most experienced goalies in the 2021 playoffs. He’s in his 18th year with 652 regular season appearances and 47 postseason matchups under his belt.
Of course, it’s possible Vanecek’s injury is minor and he’ll be good to go for Game 2. Samsonov might even be able to start Monday night. Game 1 could be Anderson’s only action of this series.
But if Anderson does continue to start, Washington’s disadvantage in net won’t be as glaring as it was before the series. That’s not an insignificant development for a Capitals team with the offensive firepower and championship experience to give the Bruins a hard time in this first-round matchup.
Published: 2021-05-16 04:28:41
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