October 14, 2016 - 12:22 PM
TORONTO - A half-hour before practice on Friday morning Frederik Andersen took the ice at the Maple Leafs practice facility for a little extra work.
Toronto's new No. 1 goaltender is trying to get on track after a bumpy start to his early Leafs tenure. The 27-year-old gave up five goals in his debut for the club on Wednesday night, the effort following a rough (and short) pre-season compounded by injury.
Andersen hopes to show much better when he makes his first start in front of the hometown crowd against Boston on Saturday evening.
The Leafs are counting on him to solidify their crease. The club signed him for five years and US$25 million following a summer trade from Anaheim and have professed their faith in his abilities amid very early stumbles this fall.
"Obviously you want to keep proving them right, but I expect a lot better from myself too," Andersen said. "So I want to get back to that (strong play)."
Andersen, who split No. 1 duties for the better part of three seasons in Anaheim, said he didn't want complacency to set in now that he has full control of the top job in Toronto. "I don't want to have any of that," said Andersen, the NHL's only Danish netminder. "You want to prove yourself every day and work hard."
Before he could even get into blue and white for the first time Andersen got hurt, suffering a suspected shoulder injury in an Olympic qualifier early last month. He was expected to challenge for Team Europe's No. 1 goalie spot at the World Cup of Hockey, but instead had to fight just to be ready for the start of the NHL regular season. He got into only three exhibition games ahead of Wednesday's season opener in Ottawa, yielding 10 goals in his two pre-season starts.
"It was a little bump in the road," Andersen said of the injury. "It's something you've got to battle through."
Andersen is admittedly trying to find some confidence. Not only is there rust from the off-season and injury to shake off, but acclimation into a new organization and city. He was still getting used to Toronto's hectic pace, noting that driving in the city required some aggressive manoeuvring.
"I think coming back here I've been second-guessing myself a little bit in some of these situations," Andersen said of his play on the ice. "And I think it's just something that you've got to get your confidence back and I think after that it'll get better. You'll trust yourself more and more the better confidence you have."
Leafs coach Mike Babcock said his confidence in Andersen was based on the goaltender's Anaheim tenure (.918 save percentage) as well as his large six foot four frame. Babcock was also impressed by what he saw on video of Andersen, and talked to his former teammates for added insight.
"That's why we're as comfortable as we are with the decision we made," Babcock said.
Andersen toiled with Leafs goalie coach Steve Briere and backup goalie Jhonas Enroth ahead of practice on Friday.
Briere fired shots from centre-ice to help Andersen with his puck-handling and then positioned himself for shots from the top of the left faceoff circle. Andersen was then made to stop the attempts while positioned between two poles stationed a couple feet apart.
Andersen has started well historically in his brief NHL career, boasting a .932 save percentage in October. He went 0-5-2 during the Anaheim Ducks' horrid start last fall, but yielded only 16 goals in eight starts.
Andersen has never lost in four career starts against the Bruins, the Leafs' Saturday opponent, 4-0-0 with a .956 save percentage.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016