Unfortunately Fasth got injured, causing Bruce Boudreau to bring Frederik Andersen up. Towards the end of the season it appeared that Andersen would be the permanent back up to Hiller when Fasth was traded to the Edmonton Oilers.
Shea Weber changed the Ducks’ goaltending depth chart when he shot a puck off Andersen’s mask back on Apr. 4. Andersen had to leave the game after experiencing headaches from the hard shot. Andersen was listed as day-to-day and wasn’t quite 100% ready in Boudreau’s mind to come back to play.
In steps John Gibson to play the back up position.
After the game against the Nashville Predators, the Ducks faced a back-to-back road situation. Boudreau decided to start Hiller against Edmonton Oilers and Gibson against the Vancouver Canucks.
In his first NHL game Gibson faced 18 shots and shutout the Canucks. Gibson didn’t face too many shots as the Ducks’ defense created turnovers and blocked shots all night long in front of him. Gibson did make the timely saves when he needed to.
The following game was one of the biggest of the year for the Ducks as they played the San Jose Sharks and could clinch the Pacific Division title for a second year in a row. Anderson was still not ready to play so you think Boudreau would go with his No. 1 starter Hiller, right?
Boudreau put Gibson in net for his second start after seeing him play well in his first game. Gibson gave up an early goal in the game, but stayed calm stopping 36 out of 38 shots by the Sharks. The Ducks went on to win 5-2.
It says a great deal when the head coach puts in a rookie in a huge game over the starter toward the end of the season. Boudreau says Hiller has lost confidence in his play, but hasn’t Boudreau lost confidence in Hiller as well?
In the final game of the season, honoring Teemu Selanne, Boudreau again played Gibson. The Ducks had locked up the Pacific Division and Western Conference. The game meant nothing in terms of standing or playoff seeding.
It would have been a great game to put Hiller in to get his confidence back, but instead Boudreau made Hiller a healthy scratch.
Boudreau has been diplomatic when discussing the goalie situation, but it’s time to go with the hot hand. Gibson in three starts is 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA and .954 SV%. Gibson has been very good in all three games he has played. He has not given up more than two goals in any start.
In the game against the Sharks, the Ducks were down early 1-0 but rallied to come back and win. The Ducks did it again down 2-0 in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche.
The biggest asset that Gibson brings is confidence. He gave up an early goal in his last two starts, but it doesn’t seem to phase him at all.
The Ducks have been the “comeback kids” all season for their ability to rally and win games. The Ducks should not make a habit of trying to rally every game in the playoffs because it is more difficult to do so at that time of year.
However, Gibson is the goalie I want in net because he may let in an early goal, but he is going to stay calm and make saves to keep the Ducks in the game.
Gibson’s other strength is his positioning. If you watch the three previous starts, he challenges shooters by coming out of the net and cutting down on the angles. He seems to be in the right position at the right time. The only real argument against Gibson is that he is a rookie with no playoff experience.
I remember when people talked about another goalie who lacked playoff experience, Jean-Sebastien Giguere. In the 2002-03 season, Giguere’s playoff debut led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup finals only to lose in Game 7. Gibson could lead the Ducks to the finals this year.
Having three quality goaltenders is not cause for concern for Boudreau or the Ducks. Chances are Boudreau will start the goalie who is hot and stays that way. Gibson is healthy and has won his three starts building momentum for the Ducks heading into the playoffs.
Boudreau should keep the Ducks momentum going by starting Gibson.
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