The Ottawa Senators were in a rebuilding season during 2019-20. As such, it wasn’t expected that the Senators goalies would have statistically great seasons; and, for the most part, they didn’t. It’s tough when your team is losing more games than it’s winning and the goalie is often the very last line of defense when players make mistakes on the ice as rebuilding teams are wont to do.
It’s simple, the talent your team can ice simply isn’t up to par with the talent on most other teams. And that’s what it was like for the Senators goalies this season.
Although there are some quality goalies in the system, they’re still a year or two away from moving to the roster. That left aging veteran Craig Anderson, Anders Nilsson, and perhaps Senators goalie-of-the-future Marcus Hogberg splitting time in the nets for the team.
So, now that the Senators season is over for certain, because they won’t be one of the 24 teams moving onwards into the postseason, how did the goalies do over the course of the season?
Let’s start with Anders Nilsson, because his review will be short.
Anders Nilsson’s Season
On December 16, Nilsson suffered what was first called an “illness,” but turned out to be something more serious. It’s not clear if the team’s medical staff knew what was going on because in mid-January head coach D.J. Smith noted that, although Nilsson had faced some shots in practice on New Year’s Day, “At this point he’s not ready to return. Hopefully, this week off will give him some more time and we can get him back. It’s a big hole and he’s played some really good hockey for us, but we wouldn’t have had a look at (Hogberg) if he hadn’t gone out.”
Nilsson apparently continued to rehab, but it didn’t take long before his season was effectively shut down and he went on injured reserve. As it turned out, Nilsson had suffered a concussion on December 16 and he never returned from that injury – that was his season.
In mid-February, Nilsson took part in practice for the first time for a couple months; and, although coach Smith noted that it was a positive sign in his recovery. there was still no timetable for his return. At that time, it was thought he would be back before the end of the season. And, perhaps if the season hadn’t not have ended with the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have seen Nilsson. However, Nilsson never did return.
Rotating Marcus Hogberg and Craig Anderson
With Nilsson out of the line-up, the Senators rotated Marcus Hogberg and Craig Anderson in goal. Let’s talk about Hogberg first.
Marcus Hogberg’s Season
Hogberg played 24 games, with a 5-8-8 record, a goals-against-average of 3.12 and a 0.904 save percentage. Really, those aren’t bad numbers for a rookie goalie. In fact, once the season sort of took shape for the team, Hogberg became more the choice than the option. Over the season, it seemed as if it took him a long time to win his NHL debut; however, when that happened, he just seemed to get better.
Hogberg is just a youngster at 25 years of age, but he’s a big youngster – at 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds. During this season, he had just started to show his skills in the crease. As noted, because the Senators were a rebuilding team, any goalie had to stand tall and big to keep his team in games – and Hogberg performed admirably.
When you look at his record, it’s an odd one. He had as many overtime losses as regulation-time losses. That means that he held his team in the game and secured points in 13 of the 21 games he played and had a decision. That’s good for the team.
Next season, he’s on a one-way contract and will likely be the starter. We’re unsure if Nilsson’s concussion is better yet and we’re unsure if Anderson will stick around. Anderson’s contract expires after this season. As a result, with Nilsson and Hogberg, for the Senators, it looks to be all-Swedish-goalies all-the-time.
Craig Anderson’s Season
First, it would be wrong not to acknowledge Craig Anderson’s contribution to the Senators historically. On May 6, 2020, when the All-Time Ottawa Senators Team was named as part of TSN’s Hockey’s All-Time 7 Project, Anderson was one of two goalies named as the team’s all-time greatest. [The other was Goalie Alec Connell who played from 1925-28.] But, during the modern era with the Senators 2nd edition, Anderson was the best.
Anderson currently holds the Senators’ franchise goalie records for games and wins. During this season, Anderson played 34 games and recorded an 11-17-2 record with a goals-against-average of 3.25 and a 0.902 save percentage. Most hockey pundits believe it will be Anderson’s last season with the Senators.
In truth, he’s likely to retire. I can’t imagine him moving to another team, although I can’t know that for certain. However, given all he and his family have been through in Canada, I’m guessing that, although Anderson is a US citizen, he considers Ottawa home.
I can imagine him signing a team-friendly single-season contract if he’s asked, but likely his time is over and retirement is on the way. And, after all is said and done, he had a really quite amazing career with the Senators.
This season, because of Nilsson’s concussion, Anderson probably had a much larger workload than most expected. Although the season wasn’t his best, he was stable and consistent in the net. He’s a veteran who played well enough during a season when everyone knew the team was rebuilding.
It was a tough season for everyone in Ottawa, including the goalies. That said, there was growth in net with Hogberg. He might not be the goalie of the Senators’ future, but he’ll likely get a chance to prove that next season. It’s time for Anderson to pass the torch. We wish him well wherever he lands and whatever he does.