Craig Anderson has struggled against the Pens

Justin K. Aller

Ottawa's Craig Anderson has been Vezina worthy against the rest of the league, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have had his number this year.

Ottawa's Craig Anderson has definitely taken the road less traveled to the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. He's been drafted by two NHL teams (first by Calgary in 1999 then by Chicago in 2001 when he didn't sign with Calgary). The next five years he bounced between NHL and AHL in Chicago's organization before spending three years in Florida and two more in Colorado before a 2011 move to Ottawa. In three seasons with the Senators, Anderson has posted save percentages of .939, .913 and a sterling .941 mark this season in 24 injury shortened games of the lockout season.

By any means, the mark of a goalie who's found his rhythm and become a solid NHL starting caliber goalie. One who would have even merited some talk for Vezina trophy discission, had he not been injured and played more games this season.

There's been one consistent thorn in Anderson's side this season, and that's the Pittsburgh Penguins. Anderson's .941 save percentage would have been .946 (557 saves on 589 shots) had he not faced the Penguins three times in the regular season. The Pens won all three of those games, including a shootout where James Neal, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin all humbled Anderson in the only three shots Anderson faced. Like them or not, shootouts are used to decide games, and again Anderson had no answer for shots off the Penguins sticks.

The same trend has continued so far in the playoffs. The Sens made short work of the Montreal Canadiens in five games, anchored by Anderson who stopped 171 of 180 shots for a terrific .950 save percentage. But ihe first two games of this series, Anderson's yielded seven goals on 51 shots (.863 save percentage) and got a quick hook early in the second period in favor of backup Robin Lehner, who played very well in relief for Ottawa.

For the Senators, their chances of beating the Penguins begins and ends with Anderson. If he isn't, by far, the best player on the ice, Pittsburgh will win games. In a zero games to two hole, Ottawa will have to win four of the next five games in order to move on. Given Anderson's performances so far in 2013 against Pittsburgh (0-3-1, .892 save percentage, 3.40 GAA) it's looking like an uphill battle indeed.

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