The way JP Anderson closed in on the OHL career win record perishes the notion about him being a so-called system goalie.
Being credited for 115 wins across five seasons with the then-Mississauga Majors and Sarnia Sting was probably never a statistical goal for the San Jose Sharks free-agent signing. Anderson set the mark with a 29-save showing Sunday in Sarnia's 4-1 win over Sault Ste. Marie, former team of previous record holder Kyle Gajewski.
Perhaps there's a small irony this Ontario Hockey League mark belongs to Anderson. Many people who only half-follow junior hockey might link him to momentous outcomes that happened to him two Sundays apart in May 2011. Mississauga lost the OHL title to Owen Sound in Game 7 overtime and then was overcome by Jonathan Huberdeau and Saint John in the MasterCard Memorial Cup final. Making that association only shows it's illogical to rate goalies based on W's and L's.
Anderson's march to the mark will inevitably be described as having happened "quietly." There was nothing of the buildup that enveloped John Tavares overtaking Peter Lee as the OHL's most prolific goal scorer in 2008-09; of course, Tavares was also headed toward being the NHL's first overall draft choice. Also, it is dodgy to evaluate either goalies or pitchers in baseball based on W's. Attention must be paid to how Anderson worked toward the mark with a Sting squad that was far different from the one he tended the net for in Mississauga.
"I've been fortunate to play for some pretty good teams and play for some coaches that play me a lot of minutes, ever since I was 16 right up until now," Anderson told TV Cogeco Sarnia in an on-ice post-game interview on Sunday. "I've been really fortunate to be in the situation that I am and I've just tried to take advantage of it.
"I honestly didn't know about it until I came in Friday and Brodie [Barrick, the Sting's backup goalie] said there had been something on Twitter about me tying the record [on Thursday," Anderson also noted.
Anderson is an overage somewhat due to circumstances — the NHL lockout and surgery on his left (stick side) shoulder. His statline (2.90 average, .913 save percentage in 27 games) is not glittering by contemporary OHL standards, but he has helped the Sting take over top spot in the West Division.
The image of Anderson as a system goalie owes to his last two full seasons in Mississauga, where he earned 61 wins. Sixteen of those were in games where he faced 20 or fewer shots (far fewer on more than one night). He was so reliable in 2010-11 that then-Majors coach Dave Cameron eschewed his usual two-goalie rotation and rode with him all season.
When a goalie gets that kind of support, people can start being doubtful, even though Anderson plays a tight butterfly and handles the puck like a dream. So the yeah-but sticky notes were affixed to him. Yeah, but he's on a powerhouse team that's practically always ahead. Yeah, but he was undrafted. Yeah, but he is only 5-foot-11 and the NHL has a jones for tall goalies. Yeah, but Hockey Canada took two other goalies to the world junior, even though Anderson had a decent camp.
In retrospect, his overage year has put the lie those silly ideas. Sarnia has a lot going for it with Alex Galchenyuk, but limiting shots is not their thing. Anderson is facing 33.13 shots on goal per game, well above the 25.89 and 26.44 he saw in his last two full seasons in Missy. Yet he's borne up incredibly well despite facing ridiculous shot totals — try 193 in five starts this month.
Goalies are still works in progress by the time they leave junior hockey. But these past few weeks have shown Anderson rates every testimonial he has received over his OHL tenure. There are goalies who are flashier or are pegged for greater pro success. There are others who will sooner or later earn the world junior team cred that eluded Anderson two years ago. It's a credit to him that he chalks up the mark to favourable circumstances, but the last few weeks have shown JP Anderson is uniquely deserving of the mark. Considerations about his pro hockey future should wait, since this is about being a fine junior netminder.
For anyone wondering, Kyle Gajewski's 114 wins came in just four seasons. However, Anderson (197 career games) has made 17 fewer appearances.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.