Sometimes it doesn't matter if you’re out-corsi’d when you have a magician in net. Tonight was one of those games.
So lets talk a little about John Gibson. For all of the talk prior to the game, about wanting to start Ryan Miller - some stuff about Gibson doesnt perform against Pittsburgh, and playing in his home town would put too much pressure on his shoulders - there should have been very little doubt that psuedo-coach Carlyle would turn to the #1 netminder in the last game prior to the Christmas break.
Weirdly enough, all the armchair-coaches were correct, and Gibson turned in another ho-hum game. A ho-hum game that turns out was the first shut out against Pittsburgh in a bees d**k over 15 years (Giguere, Dec 15th 2002), and only the second against them ever. A ho-hum effort that allowed Gibson takes back his #1 spot on the franchise leader board for SV%, and GAA, while slowly creeping ever closer to 3rd place on the shut out list (Gibson 13, Jonas Hiller 21, Guy Herbet 27, & Jean-Sebastien Giguere 32). A ho-hum effort that salvaged the road trip, gaining them 7 of a possible 12 points on the road, and sending them into the Christmas break on a 2 game winning streak (and 5-2-3, over the past 10). Potentially, most notably, a ho-hum effort that propelled the Ducks into the final wildcard playoff spot. A playoff spot for Christmas - I’ll go out on a limb and say that no one predicted that would happen with the injury list the Ducks have had this season. Not bad going for a guy who turned 24 in July, and who is on one of the better value contracts in the league.
Oh also one of the saves of the year happened.
It's just becoming a regular thing for @JohnGibson35. pic.twitter.com/4weoeOAxPs— NHL (@NHL) December 24, 2017
I normally wouldn't promote AC tweets, but
@DucksJaggernaut and I are in complete agreement here... I think Gibby’s on the naughty list, because that was straight up robbery.
The best hockey player in the world just stopped Sidney Crosby. What say you, Pittsburgh fans?— Anaheim Calling (@AnaheimCalling) December 24, 2017
Le sigh.... As much as I want to enthuse more about Gibson, his greatness, and his majestic flow, other stuff happened tonight as well.
3 minutes into the first, Kris Letang, (or Le-turnover - hat tip again to Mr Eric Stites who was running the twitter account tonight), he of 3rd in the league for turning the puck over fame, under no pressure at all, went right ahead and turned the puck over. Ondrej Kase, showing noticeably more speed than he has in recent games, pounced. Kase made a nifty little move to freeze Murray before dragging the puck near enough to 10ft to his backhand before lifting it mid-net height, stick side, for the Ducks first of the night. That was the third goal and fourth point in 3 games for Mr Kase and 9th tally of his season.... it also added to the mountain of mediocrity that is Loletang in 2017-18, making him go to a -14 +/- on the season.
Ondrej out in PIttsburgh delivering gifts for all #NHLDucks fans! #LetsGoDucks pic.twitter.com/nLRXV97NTG— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) December 24, 2017
Not long later, another defensive breakdown allowed Rickard Rakell to whip another backhander that somehow trickled through Murray. Jamie Oleksiak skated into Rakell, leaving the puck lying open in the vicinity of Ryan f*****g Getzlaf, who deftly pushed the puck into open ice, in Rakell’s path. Similar to Kase’s goal earlier, Rakell drags the puck wide to the backhand, and lifts it mid net height. Matt Murray with his eyes on his mentor shutting out the caps in Vegas did not have his shit together, and instead of sealing off the near post left it wide open. Rakell made no mistake and snuck it through. The Ryan Getzlaf helper extended his point streak to 6 games (1 goal, 8 assists), and gave him 16 points in 13 games. If you were wondering at home, this is 5th in the league for points per game, clocking him in at a wonderful 1.23. Ah.. turns out the old I’m Ryan Getzlaf and you’re not, is still one of the best things in hockey.
Andrew Cogliano tallied a shorthanded marker for his 1st of the season, and a share of the team lead in this category. I don't know if the shine is washing off Matt Murray, or if the Penguins are regretting moving Marc-Andre Fleury (they should be), but the man affectionately named Cogs made this look almost too easy. With all the space and time in the world, after a gift of a turnover and Chris Letang being in Kevin Bieksa like position - that is to say not anywhere near where he should have been - Cogs went five hole and finished Murrays night. Notably, this was the 14th shorthanded goal of his Ducks career, edging him closer to Kariya’s franchise leading 16. Since the 2012-2013 season, Cogs has had no less than 2 shorties a season, thus it is highly likely (given Ducks attract penalties like honey attracts bee’s) that Cogliano takes a share of that record this season. Conveniently two more SHG’s would also have Cogliano tie Kariya for most Ducks shorthanded points. Oh also apparently hes played 823 straight games. Not special in anyway, except that hes played 823 straight games!
Finally, Cam Fowler takes a Christmas wrapped gift from Rakell and flips one past back-up tender Tristan Tarry. On what was literally the only play that occured on the power play, Jakob Silfverberg did some work on the wall to backhand the puck to Rakell. Rakell in turn moved the puck deep before flipping the puck over Olli Maatta’s and Tom Kuhnhackl’s sticks, and through the royal road towards Tarry’s stick side, where Fowler was waiting in the low circle. Taking a moment to settle the airborne puck Fowler then made no mistake, rifling the puck through stick side with 3.4 seconds to go on the clock. Game over at the second intermission.
3 Stars of the night
3. Ryan Getzlaf - 21 corsi attempts, 7 scoring chances, 5 high danger scoring chances, another assist, and once more the straw that stirs the Ducks drink.
2. Ondrej Kase - Opened the scoring tonight, added 17 corsi attempts, 7 scoring chances and played one of his best games in a Ducks jersey.
1. John Gibson - well... he’s a god damned magician. Shut the door on the Pens for the second time in Ducks history and first time in 15 years. In front of friends and family.
Signing off for Christmas
The Ducks now have a three day break before facing the conference leading (wait what?) Vegas team (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET; PRIME, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV), as the beginning of a 3 game home stand which also includes the Flames, and the Coyotes.
Until then, have a listen to the best Christmas thing since Snoop Dogg gave us Snoop’s Christmas Story.
Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to everyone. Enjoy the time off if you’re lucky enough to have it off, and stay safe.