Washington Capitals Grades: Craig Anderson 2021 Report Card

Craig Anderson, Washington Capitals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Craig Anderson, Washington Capitals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Coming up next on our Washington Capitals‘ report cards, we have another veteran in a long list of veterans on the Capitals’ roster: Craig Anderson. Anderson joined the Caps this season after spending the previous 10 seasons with the Ottawa Senators.

The 40-year-old netminder joined Washington on a one-year deal which paid him $700,000 for his efforts. Anderson was signed after the Capitals and the rest of the hockey world received news that five-time all star, Henrik Lundqvist, would not be able to join his new team as a result of an ongoing heart issue which he was attempting to correct. Since management was unsure what they truly had in rookie, Ilya Samsonov, they brought in Anderson to hopefully show him the ropes of what it takes to be a starter in the NHL. However, the emergence of Vitek Vanecek for the Capitals kept the Illinois-native on the taxi squad for the majority of the regular season.

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As a result of this, Anderson only took to the net four times during the regular season, and, of those four games played, he only started two. In those four games played, Anderson went 2-1-0, as he entered the net in relief of Vanecek in a 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres where he saved all eight shots he faced. The 2016-17 Bill-Masterton-Trophy winner put up a .915 save percentage and a 2.13 goals-against average in this limited sample size for Washington. As I just stated, this is a severely small sample size to truly judge how Anderson played for Washington. However, Anderson really showed his value when it mattered most.

After Samsonov missed the start of the postseason due to being placed on the NHL’s COVID list, it was Vanecek who was given the nod for Game One of the playoffs. However, after he went down with an injury on the Boston Bruins’ first goal of their first-round matchup with the Caps, it was Anderson who was thrown to the wolves in relief of Vanecek. In his Capitals’ postseason debut, Anderson made 21 saves on 22 shots to secure the 3-2 OT victory in Game One. He was given the start in Game Two, where, despite the team losing 4-3 in overtime, “Andy,” as he is commonly referred to as, played another stellar game making 44 saves on 48 shots. He wouldn’t see the ice again in the series, but he did more than was ever expected of him when General Manager, Brian MacLellan, signed him for $700,000 to replace Lundqvist.

Of course, the true value in acquiring a veteran goalie like Anderson was to mentor the young goalies in the Caps’ system. He was aware of the situation he was entering and embraced an opportunity with a Cup-contending team. Although Anderson wasn’t backing up Samsonov like he probably thought he would, the introduction of the taxi squad allowed for him to be more present with the team than he normally would be as a third-string goalie. Hopefully, as a result of this, he was able to teach the youngsters a thing-or-two about being a regular goaltender in the NHL.

It is undetermined whether Anderson will be back with the Capitals or not, however, it seems unlikely seeing as it is possible that Lundqvist joins the club for real next season, and the goaltenders are no longer rookies. His future is to be determined, but if he decides to call it a career, it surely is one worth celebrating.

Next. Washington Capitals: Breaking down what went wrong in 2021. dark

Grade A-: Although Anderson wasn’t the backup like everyone imagined he might be, he made the most of the opportunities that came his way and (hopefully) left a lasting impression on both Samsonov and Vanecek for the future.