Goaltender Andersen right in speaking up, Leafs’ Rielly says

Goaltender Andersen right in speaking up, Leafs’ Rielly says
Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen spoke up Wednesday night, calling out his team for another unacceptable start after Toronto spotted the Chicago Blackhawks a five-goal lead in a 5-4 loss.

And while Andersen suggested he “didn’t really say that much” on Thursday, at least one teammate said he was right in his criticism.

Frederik Andersen was pulled from the Leafs’ last two games after slow starts from the entire team.  (Kevin Sousa / GETTY IMAGES)

“Its important we look at ourselves, important we look at the video, because we believe in our group. Our efforts from (Wednesday’s) game and the game before (a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday) … unacceptable,” defenceman Morgan Rielly said. “Freddie’s a leader of this group, he’s exactly right with that statement. I think it’s accurate.”

Chicago scored four first-period goals Wednesday and added another in the second before Toronto finally responded. The normally soft-spoken Andersen said the Leafs must “figure it out” or they won’t survive long in the playoffs.

The players had a meeting prior to Thursday’s practice to address the concerns further, then put in an intense practice. The hope was that they could bring a positive feeling back to the dressing room.

Andersen, who was pulled from both Monday’s and Wednesday’s games, expects the Leafs will quickly end their sloppy starts.

“There’s different ways, some guys are more vocal than others,” Andersen said. “But (Thursday’s practice) was a good work day, everyone put their work boots on and came out and showed each other we can get through this.”

Andersen’s steadying influence has helped the Leafs stay among the league’s elite, and many believe he is part of a two-horse race for the Vezina Trophy with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. But this has been a tough week, with the Danish star allowing eight goals in two partial games while his save percentage dropped from .924 to .920. Certainly, he couldn’t be blamed for all the goals.

Andersen wouldn’t say whether he was more vocal than normal after Wednesday’s game, or at the team meetings Thursday. “I didn’t really say that much,” he said. “We know we can do a better job and come out and support each other better.

“We do have success when we make it easier for each other, and I think that’s something we gotta get back to … When you go through tough travel, a lot of different players, it’s extra important that we help each other out, and it s not that we don’t have that … we just have to find it again, and that’s what I talked about.”

The captainless Leafs rely on veterans like Andersen, Rielly and John Tavares and younger players like Auston Matthews to supply leadership. It’s a balanced approach, though many believe Matthews has been most like a captain during a spell of several weeks where he has played his best hockey of the season.

The quiet Andersen showed Wednesday that he will not idly sit by when his team falters in front of him.

“That’s his demeanour, he’s not just putting that on, it’s his personality,” Rielly said. “He’s very calculating, very calm, he doesn’t get way too high or low, and that’s a good quality to have, especially for a goalie. We’re lucky to have him.

“He’s right, he’s right for sure. We want to win, we want to play for a long time in spring, we don’t want to be one and done.”
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