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Gibson vs. Bernier: Anaheim’s Goaltender Debate

Playoffs are right around the corner. Who should be Anaheim’s starter come Game 1?

Nashville Predators v Anaheim Ducks - Game One Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

When Anaheim brought Jonathan Bernier into the fold last summer, no one could have predicted that Anaheim would end up with ANOTHER goaltending controversy on their hands. Gibson was the clear-cut #1 entering the season after making Frederick Andersen expendable, and Bernier’s struggles in his time in Toronto made it pretty clear that this was no longer a 1A and 1B kind of situation. And, up until mid-February, those predicitons proved true. Despite a couple of good starts early in the season, Bernier struggled to put up consistent strong performances. Gibson, just as he did a year ago, really hit his stride near the halfway mark of the season. The young netminder led the league (goalies more than 10 GP) in GAA (1.69) and SV% (.941) between January 1 and his last game before injury on February 20. Gibson played in 19 of Anaheim’s 22 games in that span.

Sadly, Gibson’s hot streak had to end some time, and it ended with injury. Shortly after his relief effort in Arizona on Feb. 20, Gibby was sidelined with a lower-body injury. Gibson was out for two and a half weeks before returning to play against St. Louis in mid-March. After that one game, Gibson was again knocked out of the lineup with a new lower-body ailment that kept him out for another 2 and a half weeks. And, during this entire Gibson injury saga, Bernier has begun to find his form. Starting all but one game since Gibson went down with his initial injury, Bernier has been playing like one of the best goaltenders in the league, posting an impressive .937 SV% and a 1.91 GAA. With Gibson set to return in a backup role tonight and a mere seven games left in the regular season, there are some interesting decisions ahead of Randy Carlyle about who gets the net and when.

Let’s look at the stats...

A look at Anaheim’s top goaltenders
JC McDonough

There are plenty of stats to digest between the goaltenders. The interesting thing I found when compiling all of these stats was that we are essentially going to have to toss out their regular season and playoff records in this discussion. Gibson, by far, has the better regular season stats. However, Bernier’s numbers are better than I expected. He has a respectable .915 SV% through nearly 250 games played and also managed to escape Toronto with a near .500 record. His solid SV% paired with his higher career goals against average tells me he was simply facing higher volumes of shots per game in his tenure with Toronto (which makes a ton of sense).

Moving on to their postseason records, there really isn’t enough here to draw any conclusions from. While Gibson has had his struggles in his limited playoff experience, the team in front of him was playing fairly inconsistently in those games. And Bernier’s playoff record is irrelevant considering he didn’t even play the entire game in his one playoff appearance with the Kings.

The best thing to look at when making this goaltending decision is how these goaltenders have been playing as of late. Both Bernier and Gibson have had fantastic hot streaks here in the second half of the season. Gibson was on a tear in the first seven weeks of the new year, topping the charts in SV% and GAA during that time. Since Gibson went down with his first injury, Bernier has started all but one game for Anaheim, and has looked fantastic in doing so. His numbers during that time are near tops in the league. However, the thing that separates the two, in my opinion, is when you pair their numbers with how the team in front of them was performing at the time. While Bernier did collect a better record than Gibson during his hot streak, Anaheim’s offense was playing remarkably better during that time. Bernier was getting 3 goals per game from his offense while Gibson had much less breathing room at 2.26 GF/GP. And despite that, Gibson still managed much better numbers in SV% and GAA.

In the end, I think the best move for Carlyle is to give the net back to Gibson. The organization made a decision last summer that Gibson was going to be “the guy,” and despite Bernier’s strong performance as of late, I don’t see that changing come playoff time. If anything, I think it means that Carlyle won’t be as nervous about pulling Gibby in the playoffs if necessary. The numbers back it up as well as the organizations moves. Obviously, you never really know what Carlyle could do, but I believe the best move is to give “Golden Boy” John Gibson his net and let him run with it.