Anaheim Ducks Anton Khudobin Will Be Key To Success

The Anaheim Ducks have a bright future in net. Freddie Andersen is 26 while John Gibson is just 22 and both have showed signs of becoming the Ducks number one goaltender for years to come.

This is a “problem” that 29 general managers wish for when drafting young goaltenders. The Ducks took Gibson in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft and then took Andersen in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. This drafting success goes un-noticed by most, but the Anaheim Ducks scouts have done one hell of a job finding goaltending talent.

The Ducks 2014 training camp offered up the first round of Andersen versus Gibson, battle for the number one goaltending job.

Gibson was given the nod on opening night of the ’14-’15 season but struggled to stay healthy, only starting four games in October before suffering a groin injury that kept him out of Anaheim’s crease until mid February.

Andersen rightfully took over as the Ducks number one goalie and he never looked back.

After such a promising rookie season as a “backup” to Jonas Hiller, Andersen proved throughout the ’14-’15 season that he could be the goalie of the future for the Ducks.

However, even the NHL’s top net-minders need a break from time to time and the backup goalie issue hit Anaheim hard throughout Gibson’s absence.

Jason LaBarbera was given an opportunity to prove himself but the Ducks were set on keeping him in the AHL and with no solidified backup goalie in place, it created a heavy reliance on Andersen.

Through November and into December Bruce Boudreau was forced to use Andersen in 20 consecutive games, a workload that Andersen had never even come close to since becoming an NHL level goaltender.

The statistics show the effect it had on Andersen.

Aside from February and April (Andersen only started 3 games in each month), here are Andersen’s month by month statistics. Notice anything about November, the same month Freddie started 11 games in a row on his journey to 20 consecutive games started?

[table id=69 /]

Andersen’s worst month statistically was clearly November, the same month he started every game for the Ducks. There is no denying the correlation between Andersen’s first heavy workload as a number one goalie and some poor statistics.

The Ducks signed Ilya Bryzgalov in December and look at what happened to Andersen’s statistics. Instant relief to Andersen’s workload with the presence of a somewhat solidified backup, something that is also directly correlated with better numbers through December and January.

However, Bryz would go on to be waived by the Ducks after a lack of consistency was shown.

Fast forward to the playoffs. Freddie Andersen looked like the best goalie on any team during the first two rounds but the western conference finals were a different story. Game 5 may have exposed Andersen and the Ducks in terms of fatigue.

Now fast forward again to the 2015 draft. Bob Murray was looking to trade James Wisniewski to clear more than $5 million in cap space and he did so through a trade with Carolina. That trade sent goalie Anton Khudobin to Anaheim.

Many were confused by the deal, but it just may have been Murray’s best move of the offseason.

John Gibson will now get to start the year in San Diego. For all you Gibson lovers, relax, he is still in the future plans of the Ducks but another season in the AHL is likely the best move for both Gibson and the Ducks.

If Khudobin solidifies himself as a viable backup to Andersen, it will benefit Gibson and allow for him to focus on growing his game in the AHL rather than spend his time traveling between Anaheim and San Diego when another backup goaltending experiment fails.

Acquiring Khudobin also allows for Andersen to remain the clear cut number one goaltender with no questions asked, a role Freddie has absolutely earned after last season.

Anton Khudobin playing well means that Andersen’s work load is in check but it will also keep Freddie honest and striving to continually get better each and every night with a strong veteran backup presence breathing down his neck.

Freddie Andersen’s 2015-2016 monthly statistics chart will become increasingly balanced with Khudobin serving as a stable backup. No more un-necessary long stretches of consecutive game started.

Khudobin’s success as a backup goaltender will have an effect on the entire Ducks organization top to bottom.

A backup goaltender should be able to do one thing, give his team a chance to win every time he is in between the pipes. It was evidently clear last season that the Ducks would have to play mistake free hockey with Bryzgalov in net and that must change with Khudobin.

Khudobin was excellent in his first preseason appearnce Saturday night against San Jose. He stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced in the win and it will be solid performances like this which will in turn create more immediate success for Freddie Andersen and more long term success for John Gibson.

Anton Khudobin is going to be far more important to the Ducks this year than you had originally thought. Another savvy under the radar move from Bob Murray.