In order for the Leafs to have any hope of meeting – or surpassing – last season’s success, then Frederik Andersen needs to play at the level that he did in Wednesday night’s win over the Minnesota Wild.
Indeed Andersen’s ability to perform consistently this season has been in question. In Monday’s outing versus Vegas, the third goal against was almost Enroth-like (yikes!)
So, credit is due for the netminder’s 35-save effort. A key turning point in the game occurred in the second period when Andersen made a tremendous pad save on Matt Cullen as the Minnesota forward unleashed a one-timer in the slot.
On the ensuing rush, Zach Hyman fed Patrick Marleau with a nifty backhand pass and Marleau gave the Leafs a lead that they would never relinquish.
“I kind of got a read on what he was going to do,” Andersen said of the sequence. “I was able to throw the leg out and Patty went down and scored and made a good play there. It was nice.”
The Leafs were playing without Auston Matthews, who is nursing an upper-body ailment. Coach Mike Babcock gave no timetable for the star forward’s return.
Toronto’s makeshift line of Hyman, Marleau along with Connor Brown combined for four points. Brown’s empty-netter sealed the game late in the third period.
Nazem Kadri opened the scoring in the first period when the Leafs caught a lucky break after the puck ricocheted off the end boards, then off the pad of Minnesota netminder Devan Dubnyk and into the goal. Connor Carrick also scored for Toronto.
“(Andersen) has been rock solid for us,” Kadri said. “He’s got to play good and he’s done nothing but that to give us a chance.”