After three years as one of the busiest goalies in the NHL, Frederik Andersen has a firm idea of what his workload should be.
The Leafs No. 1 goaltender figures the “sweet spot” should be between 50 and 60 games, though he realizes he may be called on to exceed those amounts, as he did in his first three seasons in Toronto.
“You obviously figure it out as you go, but definitely, I think, there’s a sweet spot between 50 and 60 games … and, I don’t know, that number can vary a little bit (depending on) the workload in games and how the season’s going,” Andersen said Thursday as the Leafs reported to the Ford Performance Centre before flying out to Newfoundland for the first week of training camp.
“But you can’t sit down before the season and say this is the perfect number. Obviously, if everything goes well … lessen it a little bit. But, again, I do like playing a lot …”
Andersen’s workload has been a feature of the post-mortems to the last three Leafs seasons, all ending with first-round exits from the playoffs. He has faced more shots and made more saves than any NHL goalie while playing in 66, 66 and 60 regular-season games — the number dropped slightly last season because of a mid-season groin injury — and Andersen’s performance has appeared to dip late in the year.
Andersen cited 2014-15, in Anaheim, as a season where he “felt really good” at 53 starts. But he segued into his Toronto years, which began two years later, and said he also felt good playing 60-plus games.
It is expected the Leafs will try to keep Andersen under 60 games this season, especially with the arrival of Michal Neuvirth, who has 10 years experience as an NHL starter and backup. Toronto also has Michael Hutchinson, who has been reliable in spot duty.
“Obviously the goal is to be as rested and feeling great as possible … for the playoffs,” Andersen said. “For now it’s focusing on camp and being ready to take the first steps, that’s what I’m focusing on right now.”
Andersen said he has discussed load management with Mike Babcock. But the head coach stressed the importance of making the playoffs when speaking about how he might use his backup goalie this season. That could mean another campaign of 60-plus games for Andersen.
“Everyone talks about goalie management, playing this guy more, that guy less … we gotta make the playoffs,” Babcock said Thursday. “So that great plan, playing this guy or that guy more, you gotta make the playoffs, so I think that answers that question.”
Andersen said he took time away from the game after last season to simply rest his body and his injured groin muscles. The focus of his off-season training was to strengthen his body, and especially that muscle area, as a way to prevent the injury from recurring.
“Just keep going, keep getting healthy, keep making sure nothing lingered,” Andersen said of his summer.
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