Colorado's Anderson continues rise to goaltending elite; Florida fans ponder "what if"
Fifty-one saves in a playoff overtime victory. And a shutout. Just another night for ex-Panther Craig Anderson, who is today earning comparisons to Patrick Roy's near-miraculous performance in game four of the '96 Finals against...well, that's not important.
A feat of this magnitude is certain to drag out the tired and worn debate over whether Florida should have retained Anderson and dealt current starter Tomas Vokoun last summer. Hindsight makes the choice appear an easy one, but it was more than a simple decision in favor of one over the other.
His contract expiring, "Andy" had made abundantly clear his desire to become a club's number one goaltender at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, a successful campaign in which he went 15-7-5 with a 2.71 GAA and .924 SV% with three shutouts over 31 appearances (career-high 27 starts) while backing up Vokoun.
"Tvo", with two years remaining in a four-year deal, finished the season 26-23-6, sporting a 2.49 GAA, .926 SV%, and six shutouts in 59 appearances (55 starts).
Anderson was due a hefty raise from the $550,000 he had previously earned, while Vokoun - a proven veteran starter with consistently good numbers on mediocre teams - was locked in at a $5.7M cap hit.
Did the Panthers feel Andy couldn't carry the load over a full season? Management knew going in that 2009-10 was set to be a rough ride, scoring-wise, which may have tipped the scale to Vokoun's "advantage". Armed with the knowledge that realistically the Cats were quite probably geared to spin their wheels for another year, hanging on to the longtime NHLer was the proper route to travel. Going further, Jacques Martin's departure obviously played some limited role in the outcome; perhaps Randy Sexton didn't want to shake things up too radically, too quickly. Whatever.
Personally, I don't believe Anderson could have positively altered the ragged course of this year's Cats; just don't see that would have been any more successful than Tvo. The Avalanche have been a Cinderella story where every piece clicked in unison. Nothing clicked in Sunrise.
All things being equal, Vokoun had some stinkers but generally played to - and above - his abilities, regardless of his 23-28-11 record; seven shutouts are ample evidence of exceptional play, especially considering the revolving-door defense in front of him.
Would Craig Anderson - as the Number One - have changed the outcome for the Panthers in 2009-10?