OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators have always had confidence in goaltender Craig Anderson. But no one anticipated him to be this good, this early.
Anderson, who has a 5-2-1 record in his eight starts, has been one of the hottest goalies in the league so far this season. Entering Monday's games, he led all NHL netminders with a 1.12 goals-against average and .964 save percentage.
At the start of the season, many hockey observers questioned whether Anderson would be game-ready after the lockout. He spent the first part of the work stoppage in Ottawa skating with his teammates, but later chose to return to his home in Florida where he trained with Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo and goalie coach Francois Allaire.
In the meantime, backup netminder Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner -- considered the Senators' goalie of the future -- were playing exceptionally well in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Senators.
Anderson said he's not one to read the papers or listen to sports radio, but he was aware of the rumblings about his status.
"I think most players thrive on someone telling them they can't do something," Anderson said Monday. "It's usually those players who set their minds to go out and just do it. That's just the nature of an athlete. I don't think it's me in particular, but an attribute in general."
Anderson, who will make his sixth straight start today against the Buffalo Sabres, has yet to allow a regulation goal after the first period this season.
He's taking all the positive talk in stride, but there's no denying he feels a little satisfaction in proving people wrong.
"I think my preparation before the start of the season was the key to that," Anderson said with a little smile.
Many NHL goaltenders are known for their outlandish style or quirky comments. Anderson is different -- he prefers to keep things simple and low-key.
"He's a real interesting goalie in terms of he's one of those guys that's technically good, but he relies on his instincts and ability to read the game and anticipate," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.
"And I think that's why he's been so good is because he anticipates so well and can get to those unstoppable saves."
His play has become even more important with the team's offence sputtering after the loss of Jason Spezza due to back surgery.
"When you see night in and night out he's keeping you in the game it builds confidence within the team, there's no question," said Alfredsson.
-- The Canadian Press