Sports

Frederik Andersen doesn't make rookie mistakes in playoff debut

SportsAnaheim DucksNHLColumnFrederik AndersenJonas HillerDallas Stars

The crowd roared around him and the Dallas Stars pushed and shoved in front of him, but goaltender Frederik Andersen was the most composed person at Honda Center on Wednesday.

That's exactly what the Ducks were hoping for when they chose the redheaded rookie to start their playoff opener. The more softly he speaks, the more controlled his movements are when he's in goal, the better the chance he will excel and they will benefit.

They knew he was quiet by nature. After his 32-save performance Wednesday in their 4-3 victory, they also know he's immune to the jitters playoff hockey can trigger.

"He's so calm," teammate Teemu Selanne marveled. "Even when there's big games, his body language doesn't change. That's a good sign because the pressure, most of the times, is your enemy if you have some. If you can't handle the pressure in the big games, that's going to be a problem."

Andersen said he felt no pressure during his NHL playoff debut, for one simple reason.

"You can't let nerves get to you because you're screwed when you do that," he said firmly.

Denmark's lone contribution to the NHL goaltending ranks wasn't rattled when the Stars pressured him and outshot the Ducks in the first period, 14-10. He showed no weakness when the score was close, before the Ducks built a 4-0 lead in the second period with their first multiple-power-play goal performance since Jan. 15.

"I felt pretty good. Early on I had some good saves in the first and I felt good right away," Andersen said. "I thought we had a good start too, but I think we let up a little bit in the third, after the fourth goal.

"I think this is a good lesson for us and that way we can prevent it from happening again."

Dallas got to him at 16:36 of the second period, on Jamie Benn's five-on-three power-play goal, and again on a shot by Colton Sceviour that got through a screen and slipped through his pads at 18:09. If Andersen was going to come undone, that would have been the moment. Typically unruffled, he regrouped to stop Benn from point-blank range not long afterward.

"That's what happens when you come down 4-0 and the coach probably told them a little bit how they were playing, and we let up a little bit," he said. "But I think this is a good lesson. We've got to keep playing with the lead. Good thing we won, anyway."

The Ducks nearly gave Andersen some breathing room, but Patrick Maroon missed an open net and Corey Perry clanged a shot off the crossbar before Tyler Seguin redirected a shot home from the slot at 13:53 of the third period. But again, Andersen maintained his calm and stopped Cody Eakin from short range with 2:30 left in the third period.

Andersen's ability to remain cool, calm and collected were key factors in his development this season and his climb above Jonas Hiller on the Ducks' depth chart.

Hiller lost his rhythm at the worst possible time, when the Ducks were battling for the top spot in the West. Andersen and 20-year-old rookie John Gibson stepped in and stepped up until Andersen came out on the wrong end of a collision with muscular Nashville defenseman Shea Weber on April 4 and sustained an upper-body injury.

That left Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau with the kind of decision that can get coaches fired or win them contract extensions.

He couldn't open the playoffs with Hiller, whose loss of confidence is clear. He would have been taking too big a gamble if he chose Gibson, a 20-year-old kid with three games' NHL experience, as fine as Gibson's performances were.

Andersen put himself on top of the heap last Saturday, when he was perfect in four shootout rounds against the Kings at Staples Center and led the Ducks to a 4-3 triumph. That clinched it in Boudreau's mind. And Boudreau smartly chose Hiller as the backup Wednesday, no doubt because of Hiller's extensive playoff experience.

That all can change, but it was the right combination Wednesday to launch the Ducks on what they hope will be a long playoff road.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter: @helenenothelen

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SportsAnaheim DucksNHLColumnFrederik AndersenJonas HillerDallas Stars
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