Friday, December 5, 2008

Andy In Tomorrow; What's It Really Mean?

Craig Anderson has been given his 5th straight start tomorrow night as the Panthers take on the Boston Bruins. While the on-ice numbers are clearly in Andy's favor, the off-ice numbers could make this a full blown goaltender controversy.

Going back to January 3 of last season, Anderson is 14-3-3, and 6-1-3 this year. Vokoun is 5-10-1 this season. Andy's save percentage is an NHL best, .947. Vokoun's is .911. Goals against average? 1.89 to 3.01. Sounds like a pretty clear cut, #1 guy, doesn't it? Well here's the number that matters. Anderson is making $525,000 this season. Vokoun? $5.3 million. On a team where there scoring is never guaranteed and was built from the net out this offseason, the front office powers that be cannot be pleased about having $5.3 mil sitting on the bench. From a wins perspective, it seems clear. Play the better goalie. From a financial perspective, ouch. Are there teams out there willing to bring in a guy, who earns that kind of cash, in exchange for a top line scorer? Doubtful. But that's what the Panthers have, and that's what the Panthers need.

There is, of course, the fact that the Panthers have been playing their best hockey in front of Anderson over the last week and a half. Think Vokoun would've stopped 44 of 45 last night against the Sabres? Possibly. Maybe. But Anderson did, and Anderson is starting to get comfortable in that #1 G slot. After tomorrow night's game, the Panthers head out on a 4 game, all-Canada road trip that includes a 3 game in 4 night stretch. Vokoun will get a chance to get between the pipes again, and chances are, he'll put on the best performance of the year. These 2 guys are like that. They both know that they earn playing time based on performance, not salary. Vokoun has made Anderson play better, Andy will get T-Vo playing better. As long as these two continue to get along as they have on the surface so far, it'll be all beneficial for the Cats. As soon as one feels like he's getting slighted, or ego creeps into the picture, watch out. But for now, keep pushing each other, keep getting those W's, and every little thing's gonna be alright.

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