“It’s nice not to have to deal with all that extra stuff, and focusing on getting in the best shape possible. It (rehabilitation) was another thing you have to add to the whole list of things to do. Switched teams, too, which is another thing that added up.”
This year, Andersen will be ready from the start: which starts Thursday with team physicals at the MasterCard Centre. Andersen has been in town for a couple of weeks, preparing.
“Guys have showed up in really good shape,” said Andersen. “We have more goals to accomplish than just make the playoffs. We have to keep working at it. It’s not going to come over night. We have to keep taking steps in the right direction.
“We still haven’t won a round in the playoffs. We want to take that next step. Everyone is coming in in shape, to get better, to improve. It’s looking good. But we have work to do.”
Andersen struggled out of the gate last season — an .851 save percentage after his first five games — before settling down.
In some ways, there may not be a more important player on the Leafs than Andersen, the team’s first tried and true No. 1 goalie since the heady days of Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour. The 66 games played and over 3,800 minutes played were by far the most he’s played in his career and the most by a Leaf goalie since Vesa Toskala manned the pipes in 2007-08. Andersen’s .918 save percentage last year dwarfed Toskala’s .904 from that ‘07-08 season.
Andersen said he was fine with the workload, aided by the Leafs’ training staff insistence on constant body and heart measurements through practices and off-ice training. Players are continually wired up and monitored.
“My body felt great. We paid attention a lot to how things were moving in my body,” said Andersen. “The training staff paid attention to every signal the body was giving. That’s something I want to keep doing, and take the right precautions to stay healthy.
“I like to play a lot. The coaching staff has done a nice job of making sure I’m ready to play.”
The Leafs goalie situation seems a bit more stable, if thin, this season.
Last season, Jhonas Enroth started as the backup, but never gained the faith of coach Mike Babcock. Antoine Bibeau got an audition before a Curtis McElhinney was picked up on waivers and settled the backup conversation.
“He has experience, as a backup, he’s been around doing that for a while,” Andersen said of McElhinney. “I don’t think you stick around for that long if you don’t have what it takes to take that role. He did a really good job. And he’s a good guy in the room.”
Enroth is in the KHL now. Bibeau is in the Sharks system. Kasimir Kaskisuo and Garret Sparks look to be the Marlies tandem.
McElhinney, meanwhile, is happy to be back with the Leafs, having signed a two-year, $1.7 million deal. He got into 14 games in support of Andersen.
“It’s a great opportunity to continue what I started here last year,” said McElhinney. “It’s an exciting time around here. It’s fun to be part of that.”
Andersen is entering the second year of a five-year, $25 million deal, happy to see the Leafs have added veteran players like Patrick Marleau, Dominic Moore and Ron Hainsey to help the young core build on the modest success of last year.
“Every time you add players, it raises expectations,” Andersen said. “It’s something we manage. We still want to put in the work. We believe in doing the right things, both on the ice and the gym and outside the rink. If you keep doing the right things, you keep getting better. It’s what you do when you strive to be a championship team.”