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Ducks Dish: National Media Perpetuates Lazy, Disprovable Anaheim Goaltending Narrative

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Stop if you've heard this before, but a national outlet has questions about the Ducks goaltending heading in to 2015-16.

So we're doing this again, huh?
So we're doing this again, huh?
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Did you know that the Anaheim Ducks didn't win the Stanley Cup last season?

Key cornerstones Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler are all over 30 years old now too. They also made moves to bring in the likes of Kevin Bieksa, Carl Hagelin, and Chris Stewart this offseason. It puts the Ducks squarely in "win now" mode, with ESPN's Matt Coller (Insider required) ranking them as the team most clearly all-in on claiming the chalice in 2015-16.

So what's the lowest hanging analytical fruit for questioning a team that hasn't won with its current composition? Everybody say it with me, as well as Dhiren Mahiban of NBC's ProHockeyTalk: "Anaheim's Goaltenders Are Under Pressure!"

Frederik Andersen, who was the Ducks' starter in 2014-15, looked great in the playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, but against an experienced Blackhawks team, he faltered down the stretch.

...

Andersen failed to register a save percentage higher than .875 in any of the last four games of the Western Conference Final - the Ducks won just one of those games.

Simply looking at the save percentage doesn't tell the whole story of where those goals came from. Over the course of the final four games, 12 (discounting empty netters) of the 18 goals allowed by Andersen were are at even strength with two coming from medium danger areas (red in war-on-ice's save percentage area chart) and eight from a high danger areas (blue).

Is it really Andersen's fault that the Ducks struggled at staying out of the penalty box, and defensively allowed Chicago to get to the most dangerous spots on the ice? The only truly poor performance was in game five where he allowed a couple questionable goals, Jonathan Toews' game tying score from the goal line the most egregious example. Despite the Ducks outshooting the Blackhawks in three of the four games Chicago out-attempted Anaheim in games four and five, and had more scoring chances three of the four games.

Given that it was just his second full season in the league, it's clear Andersen's career is trending in the right direction, but with a core group of forwards that includes Ryan Getzlaf (30), Corey Perry (30) and Ryan Kesler (turning 31 on Aug. 31), do the Ducks have time to wait for the Dane to gain the necessary playoff experience to help them win a Stanley Cup?

One can pull past precedence from both the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings to show just how little weight this question actually holds. Before Jonathan Quick went on a tear in carrying his team with a Conn Smythe performance in 2012 he had played in all of 12 playoff games. Corey Crawford had appeared in 14 playoff games with 13 starts before leading Chicago to their 2013 title.  Even a look at recent Stanley Cup Finalists in Tuukka Rask (13 games before 2013) and Ben Bishop (no games before this season) diminishes this line of thinking as well.

In both instances the goalies had appeared in two postseasons prior as a starter before leading their respective clubs to championships. Andersen was the starter for seven games in 13-14, including getting the nod at the beginning of the playoffs against the Stars before being lost to injury in the LA series. His 23 games of playoff experience are more than either of the two current "money" multiple-time champion goalies had before their first title seasons.

Andersen will turn 26 in October, moving right in to his prime as an NHL starter. The 70 games he appeared in during the 14-15 season and playoffs are more than any other in his career (his previous most was 51 in 11-12 with Frolunda HC and the Danish national team at the World Championships), and now having gone through that grind will be better equipped physically and mentally to prepare himself to handle it.

John Gibson is the third goaltender in the fold with the Ducks heading into the 2015-16 season.

The 22-year-old was the Ducks' opening night starter last October dropping a 6-3 decision in his native Pittsburgh. Gibson was sidelined by a groin injury in early November allowing Andersen to take the reins.

Once healthy, Gibson found himself in the American Hockey League. He made 23 appearances with the Ducks last season posting a 13-8-0 record to go along with a 2.60 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. He also played 11 games with the AHL's Norfolk Admirals going 6-3-2.

If we're going to point out injuries, it's fair to note that Andersen had a .927 save percentage at even strength (10th in the league and ahead of Crawford) and .919 overall (13th and above the likes of Quick, Bishop, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller) before he suffered his head injury against the Lightning on February 8.

With Gibson's age, still being on a two-way contract, and the presence of Anton Khudobin, it suggests the possibility that he could be spending more time in San Diego this season. It's certainly much easier for the Ducks to call a player up in an emergency situation from a couple hours down the freeway than across the country by plane, and it'd allow Gibson the opportunity more regular play. If Anaheim decides to go with Gibson then sure, ask questions about the kid with 25 games of regular season experience that has dealt with injuries the past few seasons.

It's a funny world where folks are quick to laud the Washington Capitals for locking up Braden Holtby long term when his first two full seasons in the NHL have a similar look to Andersen's (with less playoff success), then in the same breath turn around and question Anaheim's goaltending situation. The comparison isn't completely apples to apples, as Holtby doesn't have a prospect the caliber of Gibson waiting behind him as a potential challenge. But it also shouldn't be surprising if in a contract year Andersen puts up the kind of numbers that Holtby (.923 SV%) did last year considering Andersen was better statistically in his first season as a backup.

If that's the case and Andersen proves able to sustain his level of play (likely with a lighter workload thanks to Khudobin) until his injury last season, the narrative about the Ducks will turn from questions about their goaltending to whether or not they're Stanley Cup favorites.

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Follow Managing Editor Eric Evelhoch on Twitter: @EricTheHawk

Email: AnaheimCalling@gmail.com