The return of goaltender Craig Anderson was supposed to be great news for the Ottawa Senators. Despite several other injuries, the team had somehow been playing well enough to stay in the playoff race until he returned. Now, Anderson has lost his first two starts since returning, the Senators have lost five straight games and the playoffs are starting to look like less of a possibility.
The Senators may be in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but they are tied with the New York Islanders (seventh) and New York Rangers (eighth) in points and are only two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets (ninth). Anderson’s play since returning has been a far cry from his performance at the start of the season, and the Senators may not have the time left in the season to recover from that. On Tuesday he allowed three goals on 24 shots against the Tampa Bay Lightning, finishing with a save percentage (.875) nowhere near his season average (.946). Anderson’s former backup, Ben Bishop, got the win for the Lightning at the other end and is 2-2 since being traded.
Anderson was leading the league in most goaltending categories when he went down with an ankle injury in February. Bishop and Robin Lehner turned in some solid performances in his absence, and Lehner could challenge him for playing time if the Senators lose their next game. While the losses of Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza were also major setbacks for the Senators, Anderson’s loss was supposed to be the one that hurt the most. If the veteran goaltender can’t find his groove soon, all of his strong play at the start of the season may have been for nothing.