As we get closer and closer to the playoffs, more and more commentators and analysts are pointing out that defense wins championships. Chicago, LA, Boston all got to the top with strong team defense and, more than that, they had goaltenders that could make timely saves when need be. Do this year’s Anaheim Ducks have the kind of goaltending those teams got that helped catapult them to the top of the league?
Frederik Andersen is the Ducks number one goalie, but has been prone to injuries this season. Earlier in the year he took a few games off with muscle tightness and now has been out for more than a week after the crossbar hit the back of his head. Before this most recent injury, Andersen had a .916 SV% and a 2.37 GAA. Not terrible numbers, by any means, but far from the best in the league.
One thing to emerge in this recent stretch of losses for the Ducks is the fact that, despite the Bryzgalov signing, John Gibson is still the number two goalie in the organization. Gibson has been excellent in some games, but is yet to handle an extended stretch of games successfully. His stats currently stand at a .907 SV% and a 2.94 GAA.
This is all to say that the Ducks goaltending this year has been good, but not great. Not, statistically speaking, at the same level the last few Stanley Cup winning goaltenders have been at, the most damning stat being the GAA.
2013-2014: Jonathan Quick .915 SV% 2.07 GAA
2012-2013: Corey Crawford .926 SV% 1.94 GAA
2011-2012: Jonathan Quick .929 SV% 1.95 GAA
2010-2011: Tim Thomas .938 SV% 2.00 GAA
On some levels the GAA speaks to the team defense as well as the play of the individual goaltender, so saying it’s a damning stat is just as much a condemnation of Andersen and Gibson as it is the team defense.Feb 12, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) gets ready for the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Is that it then? Can the Ducks simply not win the cup with their current roster? Pekka Rinne and Carey Price are neck-and-neck for the top SV% and GAA in the league. Is it time to give in to the likelihood of a Montreal-Nashville Cup final?
Statistically speaking, yes, the odds are definitely against Anaheim at this point in the season, but dominant goaltending isn’t always the cornerstone of a championship team. There are exceptions to the rule.
In 2009-2010 Antti Niemi was in his first full NHL season and backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks with a .912 SV% and 2.25 GAA. In the playoffs he had a .910 SV% and a 2.63 GAA and won the Stanley Cup for Chicago. Again, not terrible numbers, but hardly the numbers goalies like Quick and Thomas put up for their respective teams.
In the Anaheim Ducks 2006-2007 campaign, J.S. Giguere put up a decent regular season with a .918 SV% and a 2.26 GAA. Giguere went on to dominate in the playoffs with a .922 SV% and a 1.97 GAA. This could be the case too where a goaltender has a decent regular season, then plays big in the playoffs. 2011-2012 Jonathan Quick can certainly attest to that (2012 Playoff stats: .946 SV% and 1.41 GAA).
Another stat in all this is the number of wins a goaltender has, after all, what matters in the end are those final sixteen victories. Andersen has been keeping pace with the best of them in the wins category, currently residing in fourth in the league with 29 wins.
It’s no secret, especially lately, that the Ducks have issues that need to be addressed, namely on defense. As far as goaltending goes, Andersen can do it. Andersen has played well this year, and, more importantly, the team has played well in front of him (hence the 29 wins). Once the Defensive situation is handled, the Ducks can easily make a deep playoff run this season with the goaltending they have.