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Craig Anderson Is Injured, Does Disaster Loom For The Avalanche?

Before last night's division opener against the rival Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche received some distressing news. Stud goaltender Craig Anderson suffered a knee injury during pregame warmups and will be out for an indefinite period of time. Furthermore, the injury came on a night that backup Peter Budaj was starting in net and Anderson was scheduled to get some rest.

So where does this leave the 2010-2011 Avalanche squad? Are they doomed without Anderson in net?

It's common knowledge by know that Coach Joe Sacco trusted Anderson almost to a fault, riding him for the majority of the season and giving him 70 starts throughout the season. Budaj didn't even receive his second start of last season until November 14.

Let's take a closer look at last season and compare the two goalie's performances. Perhaps there is an answer within the numbers.

Games Played

Save Percentage

Goals Against Avg

Minutes Played

Craig Anderson

  71

  .917

  2.64

  4235

Peter Budaj

  15

  .917

  2.64

  728

 

Even with the irregular split in playing time, Anderson and Budaj put up exactly the same basic statistics. Both allowed goals at the exact same rate, and both goalies stopped the same percentage of shots on goal. Does this mean that they are interchangeable parts, and that Budaj will be a more than adequate stopgap? Let's break down these numbers a little more.

Budaj started 12 games last season, and produced the following line:

Save Percentage

Goals Against Allowed

Shots Against

Budaj 2009-2010

  .893

  2.5

30.66

 

When given starts, Budaj allowed fewer goals, but also stopped fewer shots. The Avalanche defense in 2009-2010 --notorious for giving up shots on goal -- gave up fewer shots in Budaj's starts. Budaj also allowed more of these shots to trickle into the net.

One more chart. Here is a comparison of average shots on goal between Anderson starts and Budaj starts:

Avg Shots Faced 2009-2010

Avg Shots Faced 2010-2011

Craig Anderson

  31.45

  33.9

Peter Budaj

  30.66

  29.5

 

There are many observations to be made by comparing the two goalies, but the numbers all point to the following:

  • Budaj routinely faces fewer shots in net than Anderson, a trend that is continuing at a greater pace this season.
  • The Avalanche scored an average of 2.83 goals per game in Budaj starts, compared with their season average of 2.98 goals, suggesting a strong emphasis on defensive effort.
  • Colorado was an average team with Budaj in net, going 5-5-2 in his 12 starts.
  • Budaj was pulled for poor performance from three of his 12 starts. Anderson was also pulled from three of his starts, though he began 70 games in net.

  • Since Colorado is fielding essentially the same team as last season, these numbers have significant statistical value to predict how Colorado will play with their number one goalie on the shelf. Expect Budaj to perform at an acceptable level, but also expect Colorado to restrict the up-tempo style of play they prefer in favor of a more defensively minded approach. And expect Budaj to have a bad game every couple of weeks.

    Budaj is an excellent backup option in net, and deserved to see more playing time this season. Unfortunately, the injury to Anderson forces Budaj into a role he doesn't excel in, and forces the team to change their approach. This injury will cost the Avalanche several games in the standings -- awful news for a team that has been struggling the past week.