Three Takeaways from the Ducks’ Opening Road Trip

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Oct 14, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen (31) takes break during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Frederik Andersen vs. John Gibson

One of the biggest questions people have had about this year’s Ducks’ squad regards the goaltending situation: this is nothing new. Having instability in net is never a pleasant situation (as was the case with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider in Vancouver), so one of the two young goalies must seize control of the job by midseason. After four games, it seems that the job is Andersen’s to lose. Gibson was given the nod for the opening game in his hometown of Pittsburgh, despite a disappointing preseason where he had a 3.28 GAA and a .896 SV%. Gibson allowed six goals on 39 shots, which was not an encouraging showing to open the season. Andersen got the nod in the next game against the Detroit Red Wings, and he impressed both then and in each subsequent start. He has logged winning decisions in all three of his starts, logging a 1.95 GAA and a .928 SV%. The most impressive start was the one against Philadelphia, when he faced an enormous number of shots, yet still logged 39 of 42 saves and stopped three of the four shootout attempts in stealing a win from the Flyers.

Andersen’s stellar play and Gibson’s lack thereof has led to the Ducks sending Gibson down to Norfolk for a weekend stint with AHL Norfolk. He will play two games before returning to the NHL club. There are two reasons as to why this move was made. The first is to help Gibson re-gain his confidence in his abilities. Just as in baseball, when a player is designated for assignment to sharpen up before returning, Gibson will have the opportunity to sharpen his skills at the AHL level. The other reason is because Gibson also needs to be playing in games regularly to improve. Player development and improvement is an inconsistent field and imperfect science, and the best way to improve is actual game-time, which Gibson was not going to get at this homestand, with matchups against Minnesota, St. Louis, Columbus, and San Jose coming. All of those teams are expected to be in the playoff hunt, and it makes no sense to throw in Gibson against good teams without first getting him reps and confidence back.

Andersen has earned his place as the starting goaltender for now with his stellar play in the first week. However, things could change as the season goes on. I don’t believe this battle is over: in fact, I believe it’s only beginning. Watch closely for how Gibson responds and how the goaltending battle carries on through the regular season.