John Gibson's sophomore season with the big club was a bit of a roller coaster, to say the least. After an injury to starter Frederik Andersen in the 2014 postseason, Bruce Boudreau turned to Gibson over Jonas Hiller in the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings. The then 20-year old tendy held his own during his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but an Anze Kopitar goal just 2:02 into the second period of the decisive Game 7 gave the Kings a 4-0 lead, ending Gibson's night and effectively nailing the coffin closed on the Ducks' season. Despite posting a .778 save percentage in the biggest game of his career, Gibson was still awarded the crease for Anaheim's 2014-15 season opener in his hometown Pittsburgh, thus beginning a year full of ups and downs for the young goaltender.
The Ducks entered the season with a 1A/1B goalie situation, with Gibson getting the first kick at the can on October 9th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After faltering in the season opener, allowing 6 goals on 39 shots, Gibson didn't get any more ice time until October 24th against Columbus, where he picked up his first win of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets a few nights before arguably his strongest outing of the season: a 38-save shutout in the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Gibson only got one more game under his belt (a hard fought loss to the St. Louis Blues) before getting the start in the Mile High City against the Colorado Avalanche. An injury suffered during warmups put a damper on those plans and, with Freddie Andersen already shelved, put the Ducks between a rock and a hard place with their goalie situation. Some of you may remember how it was dealt with at the time.
After nursing his groin injury, Gibson went to Norfolk on a recuperating stint before rejoining the Ducks in mid-February. From there on Gibby was very up and down, seemingly matching his over-.930 save percentage nights with just as many sub-.890. However, with one exception, he never followed up a loss with another. Excluding said loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team who slaughtered the Duck defense in both matchups this season anyway, he allowed more than two goals only twice while turning aside 91.8% of the shots he faced. Even with his tendency to bounce back after a rough night, Gibson rode the bench for the entirety of the postseason and watched his team make a deep run that was spoiled for the second consecutive year by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion in game #16.
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It doesn't take an expert analyst's understanding of the game to recognize the fact that good goaltenders, whether starter or backup, are so incredibly important to a team's success. Although Gibson's role with Anaheim has changed over the years from 'rising wunderkind' to 'goalie 1B' to Andersen's backup to what is likely another year swinging between the NHL and AHL with the arrival of Anton Khudobin from Carolina, he has remained a very reliable netminder that Ducks fans can rely on whenever he's called to duty. Even though his strong emergence onto the scene during the 2013-14 season wasn't exactly replicated within the scope of a larger sample size this year, some solace can be taken in the fact that A) larger sample sizes will eventually dilute any goalie's stats when they start as strong as Gibson did; those numbers simply aren't sustainable, and B) he just turned 22 a few weeks ago. He's still got most of his career, and subsequently a lot more development ahead of him.
Gibby is a great blessing to the Anaheim Ducks organization, but as people who are more qualified than I will tell you, neither he nor Andersen may be experienced enough to help them win. In all seriousness, the future is very bright with John Gibson, and in a few years' time, he may very well be the cornerstone behind a very strong Duck defense that is being built in the farm system today.