That black cloud hanging over the Ottawa Senators season has nothing to do with mounting injuries. Nor is it the possibility that this could be Daniel Alfredsson’s last with the Senators. No, the real cause for concern is the likelihood that Craig Anderson's numbers should regress.
Of the NHL goalies who have more than one game appearance, only two goalies have even-strength and penalty-kill save percentages that are both greater than .930. One is Anderson and the other guy, Corey Crawford, plays for a team that is undefeated in regulation.
Since Lockout 2 (04/05), of the goaltenders to play in more than a handful of games, only Braden Holtby (14 GP in 2010/11), Cory Schneider (33 GP in 2011/12) and Josh Harding (19 GP in 2008/09) have been able to exceed .930 marks in both save percentage thresholds. Each of these goaltenders was a backup at the time whose numbers surely benefitted from the small sample of games each played in.
Given the brevity of this lockout shortened season, Craig Anderson, like the three aforementioned goalies could benefit from this smaller sample size of games. Is it possible he could keep up this league-leading play for 40 starts? I suppose it is. But let's take a look at his career to date.
Here are Anderson’s EV and PK save percentages from seasons past:
His 2009/10 season in Colorado is widely considered his best season as a pro, but even that season’s numbers pale in comparison to the .950 EV SV% and .942 PK SV% that he is currently sporting in 2013.
Below is a table via Copper & Blue that looks at each season since the lockout and lists the average save percentages for goalies who have appeared in more than 25 games.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any question that Anderson’s numbers are going to regress; it’s just a matter of how much and when the drop begins.
Having already lost offensive catalysts like Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, it’s expected that their teammates will continue to struggle to score goals in their absence. (Working in Anderson's favor is that the Senators' team shooting percentage is currently 30th in the NHL, so any improvement in this area could certainly help offset any deterioration of Anderson's numbers.)
Over the past two weeks, we’ve already been inundated with enough clichés on how hard work and goaltending will have to carry this team if they have designs to maintain their playoff position. Well, if that’s the case, I'd suspect things are only going to get more difficult.