Crazy, right? But some people actually think Frederik Andersen isn’t going to take home the most important trophy in the NHL, the Vezina, this season.
A new defense core, a legit backup battle behind him, and a coach trying to prove he can actually get a team out of the first round. If that isn’t the recipe for a Vezina I don’t know what is.
We’ve all been looking for stability in net since Ed Belfour manned the crease in that weird mid-2000s run of playoff appearances. Not since 2003-04 when that leather jacket-wearing dad put up a 2.13 GAA and a .918 S% have the Leafs escaped the first round of the playoffs.
The best goalie since Belfour was James Reimer so… case closed on that mystery. Regardless, the Leafs are too important to the NHL and the history of hockey to be dynastically bad, so Lou Lamoriello pulled the trigger to get Andersen from Anaheim and here we are.
A huge gripe against Anderson is his slow starts. During October in his first season with the Leafs (2016/17), Andersen went 2-2-3, in 2017/18 he put up an improved 6-5-0 record but allowed 38 goals against, and last season he put up six wins, two losses and allowed 27 goals against.
He’s trending in the right direction, but those aren’t Vezina numbers. That isn’t going to matter, however, as the Leafs completely revamped their defense to stop hemorrhaging opportunities for their opponents and give Andersen a break from facing 40+ shots a night.
Reilly – Barrie, Muzzin – Ceci, Dermott – Schmaltz/Marincin/Holl/Sandin/Liljegren/Gravel/Holloway.
Speed, vision, physicality, size; name what you want, the Leafs now have it on their balanced defensive core. If this crew can mesh and keep Anderson insulated from the insane amount of rubber he’s seen since joining the Leafs a Vezina isn’t a ridiculous goal for the Great Dane to set his sights on.
Plus, you have to figure this team is going to defend from the front. Tavares’ line and Matthews’ line can sustain puck possession with their speed and skill, while new addition Alexander Kerfoot will hopefully etch out a spot as the leader on a hitting/forechecking line that has a ton of offensive prowess too.
Face it, Andersen has the Vezina wrapped up. The Canadian duo of Price and Holtby can take the year off, same with the Florida boys Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky. Andersen doesn’t have to change a thing about his game because his defense is going to win this trophy for him.