Here we are again, says anyone wondering about the goaltender saga in Anaheim.
After a season-long duel between the 25-year-old Dane and the 21-year-old Pittsburgh native, we will have another one next season. It could be argued that Frederik Andersen won his spot to be the number one goalie because he started all games in the playoffs. But after four seasons of Bruce Boudreau, you never feel like the goalie is set in stone.
It’s a similar to his time in Washington and surely tradition won’t end just because Andersen started every game in the playoffs. John Gibson also made a strong showing when he filled in for the injured Andersen after the failed Ilya Bryzgalov experiment. Andersen went down with the net as the descending crossbar smacked him in the back of the head. The helmet couldn’t protect Andersen to enough to keep him on the ice. And thus, Gibson was called up.
Injury Haunts Gibson First Half of Season
The goaltender battle didn’t exist in the first half of the season. Mainly, because Andersen left no doubt in his first six starts getting wins in all six games. Gibson had a poor showing in Pittsburgh in the first game of the season and took a quick assignment in Norfolk to get his game back to a better level. Gibson personally requested the movement because he wanted to play more while Andersen was playing well. When he came back he played three games before getting injured in a warm up on November 2nd.
Gibson had sustained a lower body injury and was out for an extended period of time. Andersen firmly took control of the crease from November to February. There was a lot of talk that Andersen wouldn’t have to fight for the number one role by the time playoffs started. But that was before the injury in Tampa that brought the goalie debate back into further review.
Gibson Steps Up in Andersen’s absence
It was February. Gibson was called up right after Andersen’s injury on the 18th of February. He didn’t start the Ducks next game against Florida and was instead backing up Ilya Bryzgalov. After three goals on Bryzgalov, Bruce sent in Gibson. Gibson went on to start the next nine games for the Ducks going 6-3. Andersen returned in March but neither goalie claimed sole possession of the starting position.
It was in a practice before the playoffs started where Gibson had an upper body injury which, based on the pictures and writers’ notes, looked like it was on his hand. There was no question anymore. Andersen took the starting role and the Ducks had their goaltender for the playoffs.
Andersen Starts Post-Season Strong
Andersen was the question. Anaheim wasn’t going to be given too much credit going into the playoffs because of previous burn outs in the years prior. But Andersen started strong and made the big saves when they were needed. He won his first seven games in the playoffs, losing only one en route to the Western Conference Finals.
Gibson didn’t show up at all in the playoffs. Andersen played every minute in net for the Ducks. While Andersen played well, it wasn’t enough. The Ducks fell short in Game 7 again and failed to make the finals. Even with Andersen’s success, the crease is nowhere near decided for next season.
Bob Murray Shuts Down Trade Talk
It’s been a few days since the 2015 NHL Draft took place and some curious moves were made by Bob Murray. James Wisniewski was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Anton Khudobin. This raised the question of Gibson getting traded to acquire another player but Murray was quick to end any talk of trading Gibson.
Ducks GM Bob Murray emphatically shut down any talk of a John Gibson trade. “John Gibson is not getting traded, so put that out there.”
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 27, 2015
What was established (after Bob calmed down from the question) was that the Ducks will need another backup in the case of Andersen or Gibson getting injured. This has led many to speculate that Gibson will spend most of his time in San Diego with the Gulls. Now that the AHL affiliate of the Ducks has moved so close, Gibson can take advantage and get consistent playing time.
So as the title suggests, this battle for the long-time position in Anaheim’s net is far from over. Both Andersen and Gibson have shown that they are ready to compete at the NHL level. Both Andersen and Gibson have also had injuries and setbacks in the past year while trying to take full control of the crease.
If you’re wondering who should start, your guess is as good as anyone in Anaheim. It will be decided over the season, not in one stretch of games and not even in a successful stretch of games. The decision won’t be made soon, which is what Boudreau is hoping will bring the best game out of both Andersen and Gibson.
I am a young product of Southern California taking in the world of hockey from the palm trees. I was raised by Kings fans and rebelled to the Ducks in 1993. This sport is incredible and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the game, the fans, and most of all, coaches and players.