Avs Ready to Start Craig Anderson Until He Drops

DENVER, CO - APRIL 24 : Goaltender Craig Anderson #41 of the Colorado Avalanche tries to poke check the puck away from Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks as Anderson's teammate Matt Duchene #9 plays defense in the second period of Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 24, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Despite the fact the Stanley Cup finals were played by two teams basically working the whole goalie-by-committee angle, I think there’s still something to a good, old-fashioned number one goalie.

The Avalanche have one in Craig Anderson, the first time since Patrick Roy left that the position doesn’t seem to be a day-to-day audition.

Anderson played a whopping 71 games last season. To me, that sounds like the hockey equivalent of a sweat shop. But to Anderson, it’s a privilege:

I’ll be as active as the team wants me to be…Everything you get in this game, you earn. If you earn 71 games, you play 71 games. If you earn 50 games, you play 50 games. What you do on the ice determines how many games you play. It’s whatever’s best for the team.

I understand Anderson’s point, but it’s all fun and games and honor until someone’s ACL snaps from overuse. And given that the Avs seems to view starting backup Peter Budaj as the equivalent of eating canned beef stew (something to be done a few times a year in absolutely emergency situations), coach Joe Sacco’s dependence upon Anderson has the potential to leave Colorado in a very vulnerable state.

Plus, the less work Budaj gets, the duller he is when he does actually start. And the more bad starts Budaj has, the less he plays. And suddenly, you have Anderson playing even more games. Until, almost inevitably, he injures something from all of the work. And then, all the Avs are left with is a broken backup goalie.

Still, at least the Avs have a top goalie to overwork. Ottawa is still waiting for their top goalie to emerge. Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott (last year’s starter) are each trying to earn the top job.

Ottawa coach Cory Clouston is playing the situation perfectly. He knows the competition is keeping each goalie sharp. Nothing motivates a goalie like knowing he’s one bad goal away from becoming a backup goalie. Plus, if one goalie is injured, seemingly inevitably in the case of Leclaire, Clouston has a strong plan B.

And as the Flyers and Blackhawks will tell you, the Stanley Cup can be won on the shoulders of your plan B. Or even your plan C.