PITTSBURGH — Just before heading to his post-game shower on Friday night, Craig Anderson was asked how he reacted to playoff losses when he was younger.
“The sky is falling. The old Chicken Little,” said the Senators goalie, who turns 36 on Sunday. “I think, win or lose as a younger player, or your first experiences in the playoffs, the swings are monumental. Whereas if you had the experience, I think the swings are less. So you try to stay more even-keeled.
“Win or lose, there’s always another night, until there’s four (losses). Doesn’t matter if you play good, play bad, you just have to look forward and you’re only as good as you are tomorrow.”
Anderson has improved his career playoff record to 22-20 with a 10-6 record this spring. After a sometimes shaky start, he carried the Senators into the Eastern Conference final with a strong performance in the clinching win over the Rangers in Round 2, then built on it with three exceptional games against Pittsburgh.
In Friday’s 3-2 defeat, he made a series-high 32 saves, but he did not look good on the Olli Maatta goal that broke a scoreless tie in the last minute of the first period.
Facing an odd-man rush, Anderson cheated, leaving the short side open as he anticipated a pass.
Maatta beat him with a shot between his right arm and his body.
“You’ve got to give yourself a chance for every situation,” Anderson said after the game. “If you play 100 per cent shot and the guy passes, you look silly. If you play 100 per cent pass and he shoots, you look silly. It’s one of those things where it happens fast. You’re just trying to make a read. I kinda bumped into the post with my right leg there, and I got a little bit flat. I was able to get a piece of it, but not enough.”
Anderson has never before been this far down the playoff road. His “tomorrow” represents the biggest game of his career. To show how good he is, he needs to celebrate his birthday with a win.
His does not need so many shots to have a good time.
“I think we played some good hockey through these first four,” Anderson said Saturday prior to heading for Pittsburgh. “Two of the games we played really well, the other two we gave ourselves a chance.
“I think, as long as we keep playing the way we’re capable of playing, we give ourselves an opportunity to put ourselves in a good spot.”