41-year-old Craig Anderson makes history with miraculous 53-save win

Anderson, now 41, became the oldest goalie in NHL history to post a 50-plus save night.

Elder statesman Craig Anderson made history against a former team on Friday.
Elder statesman Craig Anderson made history against a former team on Friday.

It may be hard for some to believe that Buffalo Sabres goalie Craig Anderson is still playing in the NHL this season. His (long ago) former team certainly took note of his presence on Friday night, though. Anderson, 41, became the oldest goalie in NHL history to generate 50 saves in a game, helping the Sabres squeeze out a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

On the back of an unexpectedly strong goalie performance, the Sabres end Friday in an equally surprising position: the East’s second wild card.

Craig Anderson makes old goalie history vs. former team

Anderson — set to turn 42 on May 21 — made an impressive 53 saves, only allowing a single goal by Carter Verhaeghe.

The Sabres shared a more specific stat of interest: Anderson is also the first goalie of age 41 or older to record multiple games where they made at least 40 saves while allowing one goal or less.

On Dec. 13, Anderson pitched a 40-save shutout against the Los Angeles Kings.

As much as a team would prefer to shelter a goalie of Anderson’s age (or any goalie, really), he’s been able to keep Buffalo in many back-and-forth contests. Friday’s 53-save clinic pushed Anderson to a save percentage that sparkles for netminders of any age: .920. Interestingly, Anderson’s record (8-7-2) isn’t as impressive as that of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (14-8-2), even though the younger goalie sports a shaky .894 save percentage.

Either way, it continues a pattern of Anderson doing some of his best work when people count him out.

Back in 2020-21, he was limited to four games played, and Anderson struggled in his final three seasons with the Senators, posting a save percentage at .903 or lower from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Last season, his first with Buffalo, only solidified the thought that he might be on his way out of the NHL. Instead, both Anderson and the Sabres have surprised the league.

Sabres very much in playoff picture; another painful setback for Florida

While he began his career with the Chicago Blackhawks (and was actually drafted twice), Anderson found his footing with the Panthers as a sneaky-strong backup. In 53 games from 2006-07 to 2008-09, Anderson generated an impressive .928 save percentage. It must have been surreal for Anderson to perform at such a level against his former team in a place where he still owns a home.

With each surprising performance, a playoff appearance seems more feasible for Anderson and the Sabres.

Both the Sabres and Red Wings currently have 64 points in 57 games played, but Buffalo holds tiebreaker advantages, so they sit as the second East wild card. The Panthers also boast 64 points, but in 61 games played, hammering home how painful this loss is. Top East wild card team, the Islanders, lost in regulation on Friday (67 points in 62 GP) while both the Penguins (63 points in 57 GP) and Capitals (62 points in 60 GP) are mired in slumps.

The Sabres aren’t all the way there to a Cinderella run yet, but nights like these make you wonder if Anderson, along with his young Sabres teammates, has some magic left.