The Anaheim Ducks find themselves in prime playoff position. They are one of four NHL teams atop the standings with 93 points. The other three squads are Nashville, Montreal and the New York Rangers. All four teams lead their respective divisions, but that is where Anaheim gets a significant advantage. The other three teams have a combined cushion of seven points over the teams behind them in the standings. The Ducks have an 11 points lead over second place Vancouver. Barring a collapse of historic proportions, the Ducks are locked into the postseason.
Therein lies Anaheim’s biggest concern, which is who should be their starting goalie for the playoffs.
At the moment, the Ducks have an impressive two-headed monster in net with Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Andersen has received more starts this season, mainly because Gibson suffered a groin injury early in the year. Things have evened out after Andersen suffered an injury of his own in February and Gibson got recalled for his chance to play. Gibson received nine straight starts while Andersen recovered and the Ducks went 6-3-0. Andersen has since returned for Anaheim and the two netminders have split the starts since.
So since Frederik Andersen has come back for the Ducks: Gibson: 4-1-0, .930 sv% Andersen: 1-0-2, .894 sv%
— Evan Sporer (@ev_sporer) March 14, 2015
Gibson’s numbers have been better in a small March sample. In four starts, the 21-year-old Pittsburgh native is 3-1 with a 2.25 goals against and a .933 save percentage. Meanwhile, Andersen has gone 1-2 with a 2.37 gaa and a .894 sv% in three March starts. There isn’t a big difference in the goals against numbers and wins are hardly a good indicator of a goaltender’s play. The save percentage is a major point of interest though.
In Gibson’s four starts, he has seen a total of 134 shots for an average of 33.5 per game. Andersen has faced 66 shots in his three starts which is an average of 22 shots per game. Right now, Gibson is seeing and stopping more shots. At these rates, if Andersen was seeing that same volume of shots that Gibson has been, he would have a goals against average of 3.67. Obviously, prorating numbers in such a small sample doesn’t give you a true idea of performance, but it points out just how good Gibson has been and how Andersen still hasn’t settled back into play after the injury.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) March 14, 2015
Gibson was huge in Anaheim’s most recent game against the hard charging Wild. He stopped 32 of 33 shots, allowing only a Zach Parise power-play tally. He also made the spectacular save seen above late in the contest to preserve Anaheim’s huge 2-1 victory. It was especially big because the Ducks had lost three straight games, including getting torched 6-3 by the Flames in the game prior. Gibson was in net for that contest and the fact he was the starter again against Minny was telling.
Bruce Boudreau is letting both of his young goaltenders get playing time and is more than likely monitoring their performances closely. The Ducks followed this path last season as well, with both Gibson and Andersen getting starts in the playoffs.
The 25-year-old Swede started the first six games of the Stars series but got pulled in two of the contests, including the clincher. Anaheim turned to veteran Jonas Hiller to start things against the Kings. He was between the pipes in Game 1 and 2 before giving way to Andersen in Game 3. With the Ducks down two games to one, Gibson got the start in Game 4, pitched a 2-0 shutout and finished the series. He went 2-2, but was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 shots in the deciding Game 7, a Ducks’ loss.
The playoff merry go round was an oddity and one of the biggest questions surrounding the Ducks’ Stanley Cup chances this year. The other three 93 point teams all sport unquestioned number one goalies in Carey Price, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist.
The Ducks need to settle on one of their two young guns to give themselves the best chance at success. Right now there is no clear cut choice and they will likely spend the rest of the year splitting time between the pipes. Gibson might have a slight edge at the moment, but Andersen will get a chance to make his case. Hopefully for the Ducks, one of the two gets hot to make the decision easy. Another second-round playoff defeat won’t go down easily in Southern California.