It's not unique to the Anaheim Ducks for head coach Bruce Boudreau to have a bit of a conundrum between the pipes for his teams. Come playoff time during his tenure in Washington it was Olaf Kolzig or Cristobal Huet, then Jose Theodore or Semyon Varlamov, and even Michal Neuvirth or Varlamov. With the Anaheim Ducks he's already had to deal with Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth (remember him?), Hiller or Frederik Andersen, and Anderson or John Gibson.
While it's not the playoffs, tomorrow night's game at STAPLES Center against the Los Angeles Kings has big implications in the battle for postseason positioning for Anaheim. The Ducks are back in the third Pacific Division slot, a level 53 points with Arizona but having played two fewer games, and the contest against the clear division leaders (who blasted said Coyotes 6-2 last night on the road) represents an opportunity to create some breathing room.
Andersen had a tremendous performance against San Jose last night, finishing with 30 saves, including stopping all six faced while shorthanded and nine in the third period. He's won his last four starts dating back to January 13 against Ottawa, and posted some sparkling numbers (.939 save percentage, five even strength goals against) in doing so. Meanwhile Gibson is fresh off an All Star weekend where he posted the best save percentage of all four goalies in the Pacific-Central preliminary round game, held up the second half of a championship game shutout, and currently sports the best goals against average (1.91) in the NHL.
It leaves Boudreau with the familiar question that the 'most interesting team in the league' has frequently faced: who gets the start in goal against the Kings?
Just for fun, lets take a look at how Ducks goalies for the life of the franchise have fared against the guys up the I-5. Gibson and Andersen's stats are on top and bolded, as they're the current choice, but included thereafter is every goalie (regular season and playoff stats combined) to ever record a decision against Los Angeles in an Anaheim sweater sorted by time on ice:
The fourth column is points percentage (percent of the goalie's decisions in which Ducks have earned at least a point vs LA), which is partially affected by the inclusion of playoff stats. However, since there have been only seven of those in the 130 meetings all time between the franchises (5.4%), it doesn't completely alter the general idea meant to be conveyed.
Of the goalies that have played against the Kings five or more times (Sorry Ellis and Emery, 2011-12 was cool and all), Andersen has performed better than any goalie in franchise history against LA. Meanwhile Gibson looks slightly below average as far as both save percentage and goals against average goes, yet he's the second worst as far as PT% amongst those that've played five or more.
Between the two it's a really small data set to consider, but an even smaller one is performance against the Angelenos on the road. Andersen is 3-0-1 at STAPLES Center with a .936 SV% and 1.99 GAA, while Gibson is 1-1-0 with a .961 SV% and 1.01 GAA. Folks may remember the killer Trevor Lewis goal in game six of the 2014 Pacific Division Playoff Final, but he did also have the 28 save shutout in game four. Four of Gibson's seven decisions against LA have come in the playoffs, while Andersen's decisions have all come in the regular season, as he got injured after holding LA to one goal on 23 shots in 49:50 of game three in 2014 before going out with an injury.
So Who Starts?
If you want to go based on past precedent, one would assume Andersen should get the start. He's is one of three goalies (Giguere, Shtalenkov) that have a better than .500 PT% for games in Los Angeles over the life of the franchise, and has been playing extremely well recently. There's also a theory that it could be an opportunity for the Ducks to 'showcase' Andersen to give more potential value as a trade piece. Considering five back-to-backs remain and Anaheim will be playing every other day from March 14 against New Jersey until the season ending road back-to-back of Colorado and Washington, it makes sense to keep two competent goalies for such an important run to and (hopefully) into the playoffs.
With Gibson locked in for the next three seasons and at 22-years old, he's clearly the preferred goalie of the future. It makes sense that after having the extra day to recover after All Star weekend by not starting against San Jose that he would get the nod. Plus, if he's going to be 'the guy' in net for Anaheim as the franchise moves forward, he's got to find his comfort zone and build greater success against the local rival. The Ducks will be back at Honda Center the following night to face the Coyotes, so it probably ought be split between the two regardless.
What do you think? Should the Ducks ride Andersen's strong recent play and history of success against the Kings? Or does Gibson need to get back at it after his All Star first half? Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments!