After an impressive two-game series against the San Jose Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks crashed back to reality with two humbling defeats to the Vegas Golden Knights. John Gibson and Maxime Comtois were two bright spots for the team in a pretty lackluster week as the Ducks now queue up for a Freeway Faceoff rivalry with the Los Angeles Kings.
Gap In Talent Made Abundantly Clear
After cruising to two straight victories against the Sharks and outscoring them by an 8-1 margin, the Ducks came crashing back down to Earth with two humbling defeats to the Knights. Their history against Vegas isn’t good as they’ve struggled to a 3-10-4 record against them since the team’s inception. That’s not counting the two losses last week, which brought the record to an abysmal 3-12-4. The Ducks season series against the Golden Knights now sits with a record of 1-4-2.
The saving grace is that they will face Vegas only one more time this season. The Ducks opened the series with a 4-0 loss in which they were heavily outshot 51-16. Robin Lehner picked up the shutout, while Gibson stopped 47 shots and recorded a .922 save percentage (SV%) on the night. He returned to the pipes on Sunday, and the Ducks didn’t fare any better, dropping the game by a final score of 5-2 despite outshooting the Golden Knights 35-28.
The gap in talent between the two teams was made abundantly clear, as the Golden Knights sit second in the Honda West Division while the Ducks sit firmly in the bottom. Vegas has the fourth-best offense with 3.34 goals per game (GPG) and is the number one team defensively with 2.18 goals-against against average (GAA). Meanwhile, Anaheim is ranked 30th with a 2.22 GPG and 24th with a 3.15 GAA. It’s not surprising that the games turned out the way they did.
John Gibson Returns To The Crease
Gibson was a lone bright spot in a tough week for Anaheim as he returned to the crease after missing the last series against San Jose. The Pittsburgh native 71 of 79 shots on goal and recorded a .899 SV% and a 4.04 GAA through two games played. Gibson’s stellar in the first game was washed off the board by a tough outing on Sunday night. His 47-save performance on Friday was the sixth time he has made at least 45 saves in a game which tied Jonas Hiller for the most in franchise history.
Over his last five starts, he has faced more shots on goal than any netminder in the league (185), which isn’t a shock considering the Ducks are top five in the league for shots against. What’s remarkable is despite Gibson’s 1-4-0 record over the span, he still posted a .924 SV% and a 2.81 GAA with four of those five games coming against the division’s top team in the Colorado Avalanche and Golden Knights. His lone win came against the Sharks on Apr. 6, where the Ducks coasted to a 5-1 victory. Outside of that, he received just three goals of offensive support across the other four games, and the Ducks were outscored 15-3.
This offseason will be ripe with speculation that the soon-to-be 28-year old netminder might opt to explore a trade out of Anaheim. He’s in the second year of an eight-year contract extension that will run through the 2026-27 season. It will be the second straight season where Gibson has struggled to put up the numbers that had him touted as one of the top goaltenders in this league.
The real key to why this offseason is more significant than others regarding Gibson is that he has a modified no-trade clause that kicks in for the 2021-22 season, where he can submit a 10-team no-trade list. While it may make more sense to keep Gibson around for the future of this organization, this offseason may be the best time to explore trading him if he truly wants out of Anaheim.
Comtois Adds To Team Leading Totals
Comtois extended his team-leading totals in both goals and points with a goal in the Ducks 5-2 loss on Sunday. He finished off an impressive passing display on a 4-on-1 break for the Ducks to give him 13 goals on the season. The Longueuil, Quebec native, leads the team in goals (13) and points (27) and is tied for second in assists (14), trailing only Rickard Rakell, who has 16. In a regular 82-game season, he would be on pace for 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points, shattering his previous career highs of five goals and six assists for 11 points, which he recorded in 29 games last season.
He is a pending restricted free agent at the end of this season and is working his way towards a nice payday when the Ducks eventually lock him up to a long-term deal. He’s parting on an emerging core of young players that have taken a major step forward this season, and along with Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, and Jamie Drysdale, the Ducks’ have a bright future in front of them.
Freeway Faceoff Part One
The Ducks head out on the road for a brief trip to Los Angeles to take on the Kings on Tuesday. It kicks off a string of games, where they will face LA five of their next six games, with one final meeting against Vegas splitting them apart. They have only faced the Kings three times this season, winning the first two meetings and dropping their most recent encounter by a final score of 5-1.
Despite both teams being firmly outside of the playoff race, the game will certainly have a playoff feel, especially with four straight meetings from Apr. 26 to May. 1. The Kings traded Jeff Carter at the trade deadline but will still have several familiar faces in the lineup, including Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty.