Goalies are the ultimate enigma come playoff time. The luxury of a playoff series is that literally anything can happen in a small sample size. There is no other position that is more scrutinized than goaltending. You can have guys like league average Jonathan Quick being called elite just because of one stellar playoff year. A goalie can give your opponents nightmares like J.S. Giguere did to the Minnesota Wild back in 2003 when he gave up only one goal in four total games. But for every great performance there is always a blow-up start sooner or later.
So going into this first round series, who will be the goalies patrolling the crease for each team?
John Gibson will almost certainly get the start for Game 1. Anaheim’s #1 goalie finished the regular season with a 25-16-9 record while posting a .922 SV% and 2.22 GAA. All of those were career numbers minus tying his career GAA. Along the way he also picked up 6 shutouts. Not too shabby for a 23-year-old goalie.
However for a goalie that was proclaimed as a big game performer, his playoff numbers are less than stellar. In six decisions, Gibson has gone 2-4 with a .912 SV% and a 2.84 GAA. After starting his playoff career with two big wins against the Los Angeles Kings including one shutout, he has lost four straight games. Not great and less than his career average. So can he rebound? See what I did there? Chances are good, but you never know what will happen in April.
Jonathan Bernier is a possible wildcard in this series. The backup has shown that he is more than capable coming in and playing behind the Anaheim defense. His stats this year are not bragging worthy—a .915 SV% and 2.50 GAA. However after a slow outset and some consistent starts down the line, Bernier was able to turn his season around and post a 21-7-4 record. There is no way he should get starts right off the bat, but if Gibson falters Bernier is a more than capable option. The only playoff action he has ever seen was a game with the Los Angeles Kings in relief and stopping all 9 shots.
Brian Elliot, the former University of Wisconsin Badger (the best school ever), has had an up and down year since coming over in the offseason from the St. Louis Blues. Even though Elliot has been much more poised the latter half of the season, his career record against Anaheim should be a big red flag for the Calgary fateful. He is 1-7-3 with a .884 all-time SV% against the Ducks. Oof. Chad Johnson are you out there?
Unlike Gibson, Elliot has had much more experience in the playoffs. The main issue for the Flames is that his starts have not been all that pretty. He has a combined record of 15-19 with a .911 SV% and 2.49. Both are essentially at his career, regular season average. If the Ducks’ offensive game can capitalize on shot attempts and high danger shot opportunities, Elliot will have to have a stellar series for his team to get some wins.
So Who Has the Edge?
Well, Anaheim of course.
After a career year, John Gibson is poised to bounce back and raise his career playoff numbers. On the other hand, Brian Elliot has the edge in experience. Regardless, both goalies wear CCM so they are both winners in my eyes.
Anything can happen to a goalie over seven games. You just have to hope the hockey gods don’t hear a random fan sitting in on their couch while putting back some Bud Heavy yelling SHUTOUT. Don’t be that person.