Yeah, I know, I didn’t think I’d ever write this article either.
But, we’ve encountered a situation.
With 14 games left in the season, it seems like Freddy might be facing a bit of fatigue. In his last four games, he’s posted save percentages of .870 (vs. Boston), .929 (vs. Tampa), .800 (vs. Washington), and .792 (vs. Buffalo). While goals against isn’t the most reliable stat, he’s allowed three or more goals in his last five games, and in nine of his last 10 games.
Now, his shot volume is also up, so in a lot of those 3+ GA games, he still had some above .900 save percentage games. Also, the last four games, you can chalk up to playing good teams (Boston and Tampa), and some fluky games (Washington and Buffalo).
This isn’t me saying that Andersen is bad, and he’s going to be bad. This is me saying that maybe he’s getting a bit tired. The Leafs have played 68 games, and he’s played in 56 of them, all of them started, and only two of them he left early, those being the game on Saturday, and the game against Anaheim where he was hurt.
He’s played a lot, and at this point, he doesn’t need to. The Leafs are five points behind Boston, and Boston has four games in hand, and they’re 11 points behind Tampa Bay, so they aren’t going anywhere higher than third. But, they’re 14 points ahead of Florida, although the Panthers have four games in hand, so it could get interesting, but it’s still a massive point gap, that would be highly unlikely to be made up. And even if it is, the Leafs still have more points than anyone in the Metro, so they could still get a wild card spot, even in the worse case scenario.
Basically, the Leafs have all but guaranteed third place or a wild card spot in the playoffs. They aren’t getting higher, but they aren’t going lower, so there’s no cause for concern.
This puts the Leafs in an ideal situation. Freddy might be trending downward due to fatigue, and the Leafs have no real reason to win other than merit. So, why not give Freddy a break, and play McElhinney a little bit more.
Look, I don’t love McElhinney as a goalie. He’s been solid during his time with the Leafs, but his career numbers indicate that he is well below average. But, I’d rather give him a few more starts during the Leafs garbage time of the season, than run Freddy into the ground before the playoffs even start.
The Leafs have a solid mix of back to backs and contenders/non-contenders in their remaining 14 games that they could almost evenly distribute the games between the two goalies. Give Andersen the games against playoff teams so he’s still in playoff mode and is getting good games, and give McElhinney the games against bubble teams and lottery teams.
I took a look at the Leafs remaining schedule, and laid out a nice plan that the Leafs could (and probably should) follow.
Sat, Mar. 10 vs. PIT – Andersen
Wed, Mar. 14 vs. DAL – Andersen
Thu, Mar. 15 @ BUF – McElhinney
Sat, Mar 17 vs. MTL – McElhinney
Tue, Mar. 20 @ TBL – Andersen
Thu, Mar. 22 @ NSH – Andersen
Sat, Mar. 24 vs. DET – McElhinney
Mon, Mar. 26 vs. BUF – McElhinney
Wed, Mar. 28 vs. FLA – McElhinney*
Fri, Mar. 30 @ NYI – McElhinney
Sat, Mar. 31 vs. WPG – Andersen
Mon, Apr. 2 vs. BUF – McElhinney
Thu, Apr 5 @ NJD – Andersen
Sat, Apr. 7 vs. MTL – McElhinney
That gives Andersen six starts, enough to rest but still stay in game shape, and then McElhinney gets some reps in as well, which might help the Leafs if they need to decide who the backup is next season as well. The only change I’d maybe make is the Florida game. If the Panthers are creeping up on the Leafs, start Freddy, because they’ll need the two points.
So, I’m not saying that they should go to a 1a-1b system permanently, reminiscent of the James Reimer/Jonathan Bernier days, but maybe revert to it for the time being to rest up Freddy for the playoffs.
But, come playoff time, McElhinney shouldn’t touch the ice.
What do you think? Is this a good idea, or should the Leafs keep with the system they’ve being working with for the last two seasons?