It’s been a strange year for goalies across the NHL, with a number of varsity netminders going down with a wide array of injuries, illnesses, bouts with food poising, and so on. Aces, starters, good backups, journeyman backups, NHL-AHL tweeners up on emergency duty, have been claimed. No discrimination to report of.
The latest case came on Thursday night, when the Ottawa Senators announced that goalie Craig Anderson would be taking a leave of absence from the team in what the club deemed a ‘personal matter’. There were no specifics given as to what exactly that personal matter was, and no timetable was given for the return of the 35-year-old netminder.
It’s the latest on the long list of teams losing goalies for various reasons this season. It began with Jonathan Quick going down in the Kings opener, and is expected to be out three months with a groin injury. His replacement, Jeff Zatkoff, is currently shelved with a lower-body injury. Arizona lost Mike Smith to a lower-body injury, Anaheim lost its backup Jonathan Bernier to an upper-body injury. Boston ace Tuukka Rask is on injured reserve with an unspecified injury. He’s joined by backup Anton Khudobin. Carey Price and Robin Lehner have missed time fighting illness, and Pekka Rinne was one of several Predators removed from the lineup with a bizarre case of food poisoning.
It’s been one thing after another; one player after another. And the season is barely two weeks gone.
Anderson was coming off what was by far his best game of the season on Tuesday night, stopped all 22 shots that came his way in a 3-0 win over Vancouver. He had allowed 15 goals in his first four games with a save percentage of .886 despite Ottawa winning three of those games.
Anderson has been among the upper echelon of NHL puckstoppers since he was traded to Ottawa in February 2011 for ace-to-be Brian Elliot. Anderson has stopped pucks at a .919 rate while his GAA sits a 2.64. He needs 16 wins to match the franchise record of 146, held by Patrick Lalime.
The Senators will now call on Andrew Hammond, known best as the ‘Hamburgler’ after leading Ottawa on a late-season tear to get into the playoffs in 2014-15. He’s done little since, however, going just 7-12-4 in 25 games with .910/2.75 totals. He allowed five goals on 25 shots in his only action this season.
That said, the Senators are out to a 4-2 start in spite of its goaltending. The Sens have a .888 team save percentage in six games, one of 13 teams with a save percentage south of .900.