After allowing four goals off 16 shots, the Anaheim Ducks’ starting goaltender, John Gibson, was pulled from the game in the second period on Monday night in Calgary. Johnathan Bernier relieved him and allowed the Ducks to climb out of a 4-1 hole by stopping all 16 shots that were thrown at him.
When a game goes south, it’s easy to blame the goaltender. In this case, the three-goal deficit wasn’t necessarily Gibson’s fault. After all, three out of the four goals allowed were off a Flames power play.
That’s not to say that Randy Carlyle wasn’t correct in pulling Gibson. Being pulled before he is ready can shake a goaltender’s confidence, but so does forcing the goalie to stay in for too long. Allowing four goals before the game was halfway through clearly shook Gibson’s confidence, and nothing spells disaster like an unconfident goalie.
Gibson’s frustration was clear on his face after the Flames scored their fourth goal, which took an unlucky bounce off Sam Bennett’s skate.
Randy Carlyle’s Big Question
Now, the question is: will Carlyle stick with Gibson despite his off night or will he give Bernier the nod?
After the game, Corey Perry, who had the game-winner, said, “That’s why we have two solid goalies. Nothing against [Gibson]. Couple bad breaks, couple power plays. [Bernier] came in and played solid and made some big saves for us.”
When the Ducks acquired Bernier from the Maple Leafs after trading Frederik Andersen to Toronto, nobody thought that the Ducks would have another goaltending conflict. In the beginning of the year, Bernier struggled and didn’t really have a chance to play. Before Gibson was originally injured on February 22, he was 8-5-2 with a mediocre .901 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against-average.
But when Gibson was out with a lower body injury, the Ducks had to turn towards Bernier and, down the stretch, he was fantastic. In March, he was arguably the best goaltender in the league with a 10-1-2 record. He led all goalies in wins during that time and had a .941 save percentage and a 1.82 goals-against-average.
In a post-practice presser today, Carlyle said that Bernier “came in and calmed things down.” He was instrumental in allowing the Ducks to fight back to force overtime. Take a look at his save on Michael Ferland to keep the Ducks within two goals:
Truthfully, Carlyle really can’t go wrong either way. It’s possible that going with Bernier will negatively impact Gibson’s confidence, but it’s also possible that after he was pulled, Gibson will have more motivation to fight harder in Game 4. Bernier was on fire at the end of the season, but Gibson has been solid for the past two games.
Before last night, Gibson had a .942 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against-average while helping the Ducks to their first two victories. He had some crucial saves late in Game 1 that secured their win.
Late in the game, the Ducks took two back-to-back penalties, forcing them to play 5-on-3 for more than a minute. As the first penalty expired, the Flames pulled goaltender Brian Elliot to bring on an extra attacker. With 30 seconds left in the game and playing 6-on-4, Gibson made this save on Johnny Gaudreau to prevent overtime:
Both Gibson and Bernier have very little experience with playoff hockey, so that can’t be the deciding factor. Bernier has only played one other game when he relieved Jonathan Quick as the Los Angeles Kings’ back-up. As for Gibson, before this year he played in six postseason games, two during the Ducks’ very short run last year and four the year before. He was 2-4.
It all comes down to Carlyle’s personal preference. If he feels Gibson needs a rest, he should rest him, but if Gibson seems to be ready to shake off Game 3, he should get the nod. After all, by trading away Andersen, Ducks management seemed to be telling Gibson that he is the future of their franchise. Why bother shaking his confidence now?
Bernier is the back-up, and he fulfilled his role exceptionally on Monday night. It’ll come down to what Carlyle thinks will benefit the team most, even though it meant pulling Gibson in Game 3. In that same post-practice presser, Carlyle said that he had already made up his mind though wouldn’t reveal his decision.
The Ducks have the potential to shut down the Flames’ playoff run on Wednesday night and both goaltenders seem up to the task.