When the Senators stumbled out of the gate with a slow start this season, much of the blame was directed at the club's inconsistent goaltending.
In particular, Craig Anderson was singled out for not playing as well as he did during the 2012-13 campaign, when many suggested he was the best goalie in the league before he suffered an ankle injury partway through the lockout-shortened campaign.
Anderson really struggled in November, winning just two of his seven starts and posting a 4.00 GAA and a .866 save percentage. He lost a grip on his job as the No. 1 goaltender, as he was alternating starts with Robin Lehner for a good portion of December.
But then suddenly, Anderson re-discovered his game in the past couple of weeks and heading into Wednesday's game in Denver, the netminder had reeled off five consecutive victories.
However, we shouldn't be too surprised that Anderson is heating up as the calendar flips to January, because his career numbers have always been better in the second half of the season. A look at Anderson's career splits by the month, illustrates a goalie who often comes out slow and then catches fire:
In his breakout season with the Avalanche in 2009-10, he posted a .897 save percentage and a 3.19 GAA in 12 starts in the month of November. But when January rolled around, Anderson had a .946 save percentage and a 1.72 GAA and rode that momentum down the stretch where he was the biggest reason why the Avalanche made the playoffs.
In Anderson's first season with the Senators, this pattern continued – as he came out with save percentages of .881, .903 and .907 in the first three months of the season. But then a switch was flipped in January and he went 8-5-1 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.24 GAA. Those strong numbers down the stretch continued – with the exception of a brief hiccup because of a sliced finger – and the Senators ended up making the playoffs.
Anderson's dominance in January extended to last season – even though there was a lockout that meant the first three months of the season were wiped out. He went 5-0-1 with a .967 save percentage and a 0.99 GAA to start the season, further cementing the fact that January is his favourite month – no matter when the NHL season starts.
A look at Anderson's career save percentage in the month of January reveals that he is ahead of all other goalies in the Eastern Conference:
CAREER JANUARY SAVE PERCENTAGE (MIN. 25 GP)
If Anderson's career pattern continues again this season, the Senators will have an excellent chance of making the post-season. And in all likelihood, Anderson will re-establish himself as the club's No. 1 netminder for the stretch drive.