Monday, April 29, 2013
Once Again, Underrate Anderson At Your Own Peril
It was a strange feeling waking up today and immediately hearing that Senators fans were somehow talking about a goaltending controversy heading into the Montreal series.
And when I say “strange feeling”, I mean that feeling where everyone around you has gone backwoods crazy and that sane people would be smart to stay off social media like Twitter to avoid permanent brain damage in the next few days.
All of this after a game where Robin Lehner steps in to relieve clear-cut first-string goalie Craig Anderson in a back-to-back situation, plays fairly well, allows two goals - one of which was soft - and suddenly he’s the guy to beat Carey Price.
It was the same thing going into the season. Everyone was doubting Anderson because he hadn’t played hockey overseas during the lockout. Mainstream columnists were openly calling for Lehner to start in net. I felt the same way then as I do right now – Underrate Anderson At Your Own Peril.
It’s the shiny new toy syndrome. Lehner is popular with fans because there’s no blemishes. He hasn’t been around long enough to write a postcard home, let alone supplant one of the best goaltenders in the entire league this season.
I just don’t get the logic or even the emotion behind it. Anderson almost singlehandedly carried this team to the playoffs when he was healthy but all Lehner had to do was finally beat the Boston Bruins after 5 tries and suddenly he’s a groundswell candidate to lead this team past the Habs.
Now, I realize I’m exaggerating to make a point here. Most Senators fans (I assume) are still counting on Anderson, a possible Vezina candidate in the prime of his career, to start the series and hopefully they’ll be cheering him on out there.
Yet the fact that the argument is even out there tells me this goes beyond just a few radio hosts trying to drum up content for the next three days, waiting for this first-round series to start. It tells me that this city hasn’t fully embraced Anderson as a fan favourite, and that astounds me.
Sure, Anderson isn’t exactly a bubbly personality or cozy with the local media, but neither is Lehner. I’m not sure there’s been a more stonefaced interview with the media than Lehner since Dany Heatley (no comparison to Heatley otherwise - relax). He’s a serious dude with little time for pleasantries. And that’s fine. But it doesn’t explain his popularity with fans as opposed to Anderson.
Rather, it’s the unfortunate trap of falling in love with prospects because they’re new while the veterans – the guys who will actually win you a playoff series and the Stanley Cup – are old news and don’t appeal to the new breed of hockey fan who watches hockey games through their Twitter feed instead of their own eyes.
Lehner is going to be a good, if not great goalie one day. Anderson is a great goalie TODAY. How is there even a debate about this? Because of one game where Lehner only let in two goals?
It’s amazing what you can come up with when you overthink the game to the point where up is down, and elite goaltenders can become bums overnight. It’s just amazing.