John Gibson gave the Ducks their first shutout of the year, while the 26-year-old goaltender reminded everyone that his elite puck stopping skills are alive and well. Stopping all 26 shots he faced, Gibson led his team to arguably their best overall performance of the season.
The game certainly didn’t start out as well as as the score suggested. Issues passing the puck and having few answers for Islanders head coach Barry Trotz’s puck possession game saw the Ducks playing in their own zone for much of the period. Though no goals were scored, New York certainly had their chances with 20 shot attempts in the period compared to 13 attempts for Anaheim. The scoring chances they had were good too, with the Islanders picking up nearly 75% of the expected goals total.
The game almost became a Ryan Miller relief appearance early in the period after Gibson made a spectacular diving save but took the puck to the chest and hunched over, silencing the crowd while the trainer conversed with him. Luckily, he was able to remain in the game.
“I got hit in the ribs and I got winded,” Gibson said. “I couldn’t really get up, so I needed to cover the puck so I could take a minute to gather myself.”
Miller’s reaction to Gibson staying in was meme-worthy and you can bet we will be getting heavy mileage out of this gif for the foreseeable future.
The second period was about as good of a response to a poor frame as a team could hope for. The Ducks immediately began applying pressure and closing the shots gap, putting together a couple of good scoring chances before breaking through halfway into the period.
With Rickard Rakell lined up directly behind him on a set play, Ryan Getzlaf won a face-off back to Erik Gudbranson. He gave a one-touch pass to Rakell who immediately loaded up and bombed a slapshot towards Islanders’ goaltender Tomas Greiss. The rebound jumped directly into the slot with open ice. Getzlaf got to it and put a shot on Greiss who made the initial save. Troy Terry followed up another rebound, but it was Jordan Eberle who ended up knocking the puck inadvertently into his own net in the ensuing scramble. The goal was awarded to Getzlaf, giving him his ninth goal of the season and tying him with Jakob Silfverberg for the team lead.
The third period saw the pendulum swing back into the direction of the Islanders, as they began putting any pucks they could on net, though none of them was particularly dangerous (more on that later).
The Ducks doubled their lead with 6:47 remaining in the game when Getzlaf showed the hockey world that he still has his elite moments. Using his strength and reach to gain possession of a puck in the corner after some initial work by Terry, the captain skated it along the goal line, picked up Cam Fowler crashing the net in open ice, and delivered a perfect pass for the veteran defenseman to go top shelf short side on Greiss. Vintage Getzlaf.
Anaheim put the game out of reach when Ondrej Kase caught Greiss completely off-guard after throwing what appeared to be a harmless shot on net. Controlling a chipped pass into the offensive zone, Kase unexpectedly put a shot towards the net from the right half wall. Greiss was completely fooled and allowed the shot past him to give the Ducks a 3-0 lead.
Gibson did the rest and gave the Ducks their first shutout of the season in a time of need for a struggling team.
Best and Worst
Best: Scoring chances limited - Despite the shooting advantage for the Islanders, the Ducks did something they haven't done well for most of the season: keep the shots to non-dangerous areas. They “protected their house” (defended the area around the crease and the slot) better than any other game this season, in a successful execution of a strategy they tried and failed at under the previous regime. As evidenced by the heat map below, the Islanders were essentially boxed out of the high danger areas of the ice for almost the entirety of the game.
While some people say that giving up more shots than they take isn’t bad if all the shots are from non-dangerous areas, it’s not often that this scenario actually plays out. This is where looking at shot attempts combined with expected goals becomes illuminating. This is exactly what happened, with the Islanders winning the shot share battle but losing the expected goals battle over the course of the game.
Worst: Offense is still hard to come by - Let’s face it: 23 shots on goal isn’t an exactly overwhelming offensive performance. And two of the Ducks’ three goals came off of plays determined more by puck luck that actual finishing ability. While hard work and good play is what enables puck luck to go a team’s way, this game did nothing to assuage concerns about the lack of scoring on this team.
Best: Gibson is back, haters - I’ve seen a few very questionable takes from people suggesting that Ryan Miller should be the team’s starting goalie given Gibson’s recent performance. While these people are in the minority, apparently the Ducks’ number one guy felt the need to remind them that the net is still firmly his. Stopping all 26 shots, Gibson recorded the 19th shutout of his career, putting him fourth all-time amongst Ducks goaltenders. Remember, this dude is still only 26 years old.
By The Numbers
3. Cam Fowler
2. Ryan Getzlaf
1. John Gibson