If the Ducks are going to withstand the early onslaught of injuries, it’s going to be John Gibson who helps them brave the storm.
The unquestioned No. 1 starter in goal for Year 2, Gibson has propelled the Ducks to three points through two games.
In the season-opening victory over the Arizona Coyotes, the 24-year-old dazzled with a number of acrobatic split saves, perhaps none greater than a game-defining sequence in the second. Derek Stepan split the defense on a breakaway, but Gibson stonewalled him, and then swatted away the trailing Christian Dvorak’s attempt alone in front.
That was Gibson at his best. At his worst, he has kicked back a number of rebounds. He did a better job corralling pucks during Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Honda Center, but this is surely not the start he envisioned. Especially not the way he was beat on the second goal, a doorstep dribbler through his five-hole. The Pittsburgh native again allowed a goal in the game’s first five minutes (two got by him in the first nine Thursday). And there wasn’t much Gibson could do to deny the extra-period winner after Wayne Simmonds (four goals through three games) burst in front of the net all alone.
Gibson came up with plenty of opportune saves, though, and if that continues, coach Randy Carlyle and Co. will surely be pleased.
“He’s played great for us, he’s kept us in both hockey games, he’s been a big reason why we’re in the position we are,” said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, who tied the score at 2 with a short-handed slapper after stealing the puck from Flyers star Claude Giroux. “I think it’s fair to say we’re giving up too many Grade-A chances and … any time you do that against a good team like that, you’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on your goaltender.”
The Ducks again made sure Gibson would stay sharp. He faced 30 shots in the opener (four goals for a .867 save percentage) and another 37 in Game 2 of 82.
He was forced to show his worth on the penalty kill with consecutive sprawling saves on Giroux. Moments later, Ivan Provorov blasted the puck past Gibson for the game’s first score.
The penalties have been an issue already. The Ducks accrued 18 penalty minutes on Thursday (two of four on the power play), and 10 of those minutes were handed down to Gibson for leaving his net during a second period fracas.
The Flyers were on the man-advantage on five occasions, but Gibson stonewalled them each time.
With backup Ryan Miller sidelined, Gibson figures to be in net over the next two games as well.
And that’s a good thing, because so far, Gibson is at his best when the Ducks need him most.