A year after being part of a three-headed monster in net for the Anaheim Ducks in the playoffs, Andersen doesn't have to look over his shoulder anymore. The Danish netminder has proven he deserves the job and goes into the second round against the Calgary Flames as the no-doubt starter.
"He wants the ball," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I don't know if, in the past, (he) was as adamant of wanting the ball and to run with it. But you know he wants to be the guy, and he wants to be the guy that we depend on."
The Ducks depended on Andersen against the Winnipeg Jets, and he stopped 109 of the 118 shots he faced for a 2.20 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He wasn't perfect, but he quieted some doubters, at least for now.
There was reason for doubt. After going 20-5-0 during a superb rookie season in 2013-14, Andersen struggled in the playoffs, leading Boudreau to juggle between him, Jonas Hiller and John Gibson.
Hiller left in free agency to sign with the Flames and injuries to Andersen and Gibson led to the Ducks to sign Ilya Bryzgalov in December, an experiment that proved to be ill-fated. But once Andersen got healthy, he made it clear in a stretch-run battle against Gibson that he was the No. 1.
"It was like, 'I'm going to play really good to not let you have a choice on who to play,'" Boudreau said of Andersen. "Then the last game of the season, again, he played really good and he knew he was going to be the guy."
An injury to Gibson took the choice out of Boudreau's hands, and Jason LaBarbera dressed as the backup in the first round. But, for the Ducks, having Andersen on his game is a world of difference from a year ago.
"It's always different circumstances every year," Andersen said. "I try to keep all those thoughts out of my mind and let Bruce worry about that. He's got probably a lot of headaches already. That's his job to worry about who's in net. I've just got to play."
In just his third North American professional season, the 25-year-old was glad to get a feel for a full-season workload at the NHL level. He set career highs in wins, shutouts, appearances, saves and shots against.
But his biggest battle was inside his brain as part of the psychological part of goaltending.
"I've done a lot of work on mental side this year of being there for the saves and not letting the crowd or anything like that get to me," Andersen said. "You've got to be ready to think about what's really important. It's not about what had happened, it's always about what's going to happen. It's really important to be able to forget about a play, even if it's a good or bad play. You've got to make the next play."
Andersen is still growing. Even in giving up four goals inside a raucous MTS Centre in Winnipeg during Game 3, he didn't crack.
Instead, he did enough to give the Ducks a chance to win in overtime and in the process passed another test.
"It's just another bridge that he crossed where he played great and kept us in the game," Boudreau said. "Making the save at the right time is so vital. And he did it. Hopefully to us that gives him a lot of confidence going further. He's done everything we've asked of him. I just hope if he can continue as a young goalie, he's going to be real good."
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