John Gibson leaves Bruce Boudreau looking like a genius in Game 4
The decision for the Ducks to start John Gibson in Game 4 raised a lot of eyebrows. By the end of the game, it was Gibson that opened eyes with his shutout.
On the surface, the idea of Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to go with John Gibson to start Game 4 was daring. How else would you describe the decision to start a 20-year-old goalie with three games of NHL experience who just flew across the country to fill in for the injured Frederik Andersen when down 2-1 in the series?
Only in the end, it wasn't that daring.
It wasn't that hindsight proved Boudreau right, though that was definitely the case after Gibson stopped all 28 Kings shots that he saw in the Ducks' 2-0 victory. It's just that perhaps none of this should be a surprise to us with Gibson. He might not be old enough to drink but he's already had enough experiences in the hockey world to show it wasn't Boudreau just rolling the dice and getting lucky.
There's a reason why Gibson is seen as probably the premier goaltending prospect in hockey right now. There's a reason why he's been fast-tracked to the NHL and why the Ducks would even consider starting him over a former All-Star in Jonas Hiller. Because he has that in him and we've seen it all before.
Gibson came up through the US National program behind another top goalie prospect, Jack Campbell, and excelled. He made a real name for himself in the Red, White and Blue first backstopping Team USA to gold at the Junior World Championships in 2013. He followed that up by replacing Ben Bishop at the Worlds last summer and leading USA to a bronze medal, its first medal at the Worlds in nine years with a terrific tournament.
He was so impressive that Gibson earned an invitation to the USA Olympic orientation camp despite everybody knowing he would start the season outside the NHL. But really that was just because the Ducks had a pair of goaltenders already in Hiller and then Viktor Fasth.
Now he can add another notch on his belt.
The play of Andersen as well as Gibson surely gave the Ducks the confidence to deal Fasth away and very likely not re-sign Hiller this summer. The future is already now in the Anaheim nets.
Keep in mind that we're talking about a very small sample size here but it's impossible to not be impressed with Gibson so far in the NHL. He played just three games during the season at the end of the campaign with Hiller struggling and turned in a .954 save percentage. He earned a shutout in his first start, just the same as he earned a shutout in his fourth start and first in the playoffs.
What was so impressive in watching Gibson work on Saturday night was his positioning. If he was nervous it didn't show at all in his game or his movements. The Kings simply dominated possession in the final 40 minutes of this game, constantly generating offense toward Gibson. Every time they shot, though, Gibson wasn't only there, but he was square to the shooter. His movements all so confident and sound, you could hardly tell he was supposed to be inexperienced.
Sometimes making your first playoff start can be a positive as Boudreau noted after the game.
"When you call up a young guy, they always have that adrenaline," Boudrea said. "He played a great game tonight."
He had the routine moves down but he also had the great saves in his game too.
No matter how good he has looked so far, it's important to remember that Gibson is just 20 and has only a few games in the NHL. But after what he did on Saturday night, he should get a fifth game and a shot to see if he can be the guy to give the Ducks some stability in net this postseason.
At this point it would almost be daring of Boudreau to not go with Gibson.
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