A few comparisons can be made between Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson and Keanu Reeves character in the blockbuster “Matrix” movie franchise. After all, while Reeves might have been the saviour of the people of Zion, Anderson was without a doubt the saviour of the Avalanche’s season. Fitting enough, as a goaltender he is also the last defence against opposing forces again much like Reeves in the movies.
The Avalanche came into the season with very little expectations. Trading away veteran leader Ryan Smyth in the off-season to the Los Angeles Kings was a clear indicator that the Avalanche were a rebuilding team that were going to have some bumps in the road. Relying on youngsters Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart and 2009 third overall pick Matt Duchene for offense, the Avalanche were predicted by most people to finish dead last in the Western Conference.
Goaltending and defence were also concerns for the Avalanche as Anderson was unproven as a number one goaltender and Peter Budaj had failed to become a dependable starter. The Avalanche core on defence of Adam Foote, John-Michael Liles, Scott Hannan and Kyle Quincey who they acquired from the Kings in their deal for Smyth had plenty of question marks. How reliable would Foote be at his age? Would Hannan finally begin to live up to his contract? How would Quincey fit in? Would Liles improve his defensive play after posting a -19 rating the previous year?.
When the season commenced most of these questions were answered rather quickly. The Avs got off to a flying start going 10-1-2 led by the superb performances by Anderson who showed early signs of being a potential Vezina candidate. Under new head coach Joe Sacco, the young Avs flourished as Stewart, Duchene and Stastny all made their mark early and often in the season. While those three youngsters improved their game, without a doubt Marek Svatos was once again a huge disappointment for the Avs though he battled some injuries throughout the season. After a tremendous first half of the season, Anderson and the Avs play began to fade down the stretch mostly due to the fact that the new found workload began to take its toll.
The late season slip cost the Avalanche playoff seeding, as they fell all the way to eighth and went head-to-head with the Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks. Though the Avalanche gave the Sharks everything they could handle they lost the series in six games. Anderson proved to be vital to the Avs in the series, stopping over 50 shots in a Game Three win and keeping the Avs in a series that they were outplayed in for the most part.
Anderson finished the regular season with a record of 38-25-7 with a .917% save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average. In the playoffs he was even better posting a .933% save percentage with a 2,62 save percentage. He was truly the Avs MVP of the season, though the breakout seasons for Matt Duchene and Joe Sacco are also being recognized. Duchene is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie of the season and Sacco has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams award as the league’s best coach of the season.
With a vast majority of more positives than negatives, the Avalanche will go into next year believing that they can improve and become a legitimate contender in the Western Conference. This year’s playoff experience will no doubt help the young Avs mature come next spring.
About the Author
Written by Igor Henriques
A sports enthusiast with a passion for hockey,soccer,basketball,football, and baseball