World Cup of Hockey Preview: Andersen No.1 for Europe?
As the hockey world prepares for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, the staff at InGoal Magazine will take a closer look at the goaltending situation for all eight teams, including likely starters and style of play leading into the pre-tournament exhibition games. We started with the Czech Republic on Wednesday, and today take a closer look at the crease for Team Europe:
Team Europe’s options between the pipes may have simultaneously become both easier and more difficult during the past 12 months.
Heading in to the 2015-16 campaign, many would have given New York Islanders’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak the nod, with Frederik Andersen acting as deputy, an assumption which would continue when the pair were named to Team Europe’s preliminary roster in March.
Halak continues to play the same contained game he developed under Roland Melanson’s guidance in Montreal, and while he often likes to play inside the blue paint (leaving him vulnerable to shots from the middle due to his size) the 31-year-old has proven to have a well rounded game, with decent hands and a solid technique, and has gone on some incredible hot streaks in his career – most notably the 2010 playoffs.
He does tend to pull off a shots with is upper body at times, and has sometimes been vulnerable from tight angles in the past because of a reliance on the traditional VH for post integration on shape angle attacks, particularly off the rush – and this has led to some leaky goals – but the biggest strike against Halak heading in to the World Cup is a simple lack of action.
|Jaroslav Halak||Games Played||SV%||5 vs 5 SV%||HD SV%||Record|
|2015-16 Pro Season||36||.919||.922||.827||18-13-1|
Halak was ultimately limited to just 36 games last season, missing the final 17 regular season games and all eleven playoff contests due to a groin strain. He underwent surgery on a sports hernia in May, which was expected to sideline him for six-to-eight weeks.
While Andersen played just 43 games for Anaheim, he remained largely healthy throughout the campaign and, along with John Gibson, helped the Ducks survive a sluggish start to the season to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
With Gibson signing a three-year contract extension last September, Andersen was seen as something of an odd man out in Anaheim as he approached restricted free agency this summer however, and was eventually traded to the Maple Leafs in June. Signing a five-year, $25 million contract extension almost immediately upon his arrival Toronto, Andersen is set to takeover as the Maple Leafs’ number one this season – one of the most high pressure positions in the sport.
|Frederik Andersen||Games Played||SV%||5 vs 5 SV%||HD SV%||Record|
|2015-16 Pro Season||43||.919||.930||.814||22-9-4|
With Halak’s health still under question, Andersen may now become the favourite to lead Team Europe at the World Cup as well.
A strong puck handler, the 6-foot-4 puck stopper has displayed a well rounded game during his three seasons in Anaheim, posting a respectable career save percentage of .918 through 125 career NHL games, though question marks still remain over his consistency.
That said, Andersen did perform well during the 2016 playoffs, with a goals-against average of just 1.41 and a .947 save percentage in five appearances, though he was unable to prevent the Ducks from being eliminated in seven-games by Nashville. And Andersen will have a head start on being game ready going into the World Cup because he is currently backstopping Denmark at Olympic qualifying in Minsk.
While Halak’s absence has likely opened the door for Andersen at the World Cup, it also created an opportunity for German born goaltender Thomas Greiss, one the 30-year-old seized with both hands.
|Thomas Greiss||Games Played||SV%||5 vs 5 SV%||HD SV%||Record|
|2015-16 Pro Season||41||.925||.933||.844||23-11-3|
Greiss played a career high 41 games for the Islanders last season, finishing the year with an impressive .925 save percentage to plunge the club – or its fan base at least – in to some kind of goalie controversy heading towards the 2016-17 season.
The former Sharks, Coyotes and Penguins netminder managed to carry his form in to the post season too, finishing with a .923 save percentage in eleven playoff games – though it should be noted he did noticeably fade during the Eastern Conference semifinal loss to Tampa Bay.
Considered to be a well rounded goaltender, neither too passive nor too aggressive, Greiss is technically sound with a tendency to play from his feet more than many of his peers, but still has to prove last year was not a fluke, while also having had an annoying habit of occasionally giving up bad goals and bad times in the past.
The increased workload did seem to benefit him however, and his calm demeanour puts him in good stead to handle pressure situations, which could make him a dark horse to seize an opportunity this fall should Andersen and/or Halak fail to impress.