ANAHEIM — Contrary to what Leon Draisaitl must think, the Ducks do have goaltenders.
In fact, goalies have often been the pride of the franchise. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the Conn Smythe Award winner, the playoff MVP, after the Ducks lost a Stanley Cup Final to New Jersey. Guy Hebert was often the best player for the inaugural club in 1993-94.
Ilya Bryzgalov won a Game 7 in Calgary, with a first-round shutout 11 seasons ago. No Duck has done it since.
Wednesday night, the Ducks reach for that history. They ask John Gibson to stand in front of the battalion and absorb all the bullets, without rebounds.
Ducks’ goalies are letting in 3.20 goals per game in the playoffs, worst of any of the eight surviving teams, and their save percentage is .902, tied with Washington for worst among the conference semifinalists.
In Edmonton on Sunday, Randy Carlyle parked Gibson after three Oilers goals in six shots. That set up Game 7, the stage for deadly sins the past four years.
This one, like the others, will happen in front of an increasingly discourageable crowd at Honda Center. Those who can’t bear to watch don’t have to. If they hear any “Let’s Go Oilers” chants in an otherwise sullen building, they’ll know it is happening again.
The Game 7s have often been laid on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but the Ducks were out-goaltended in all four games. They also gave up the first goal in all four games, sometimes many more than that.
Last year, Freddie Andersen was pretty good but Nashville’s Pekka Rinne was spectacular. Two years ago, Andersen, now in Toronto, was jittery in a 5-3 loss to Chicago.
He was hurt in 2014 when the Kings dominated the Ducks, 6-2, as Gibson started and Jonas Hiller finished, and Jonathan Quick played typically, at least when tested. Detroit began all this in 2013 when Jimmy Howard got the better of Hiller.
The goalies didn’t get the L’s by themselves. Defensive blunders and offensive anxiety contributed. But the Ducks need to play confidently, and they can’t unless the goalie gives them reason to.
First-year goalie coach Sudarshan Maharaj met with Gibson on Tuesday morning.
“You reiterate the core things that you’ve put in place all season,” Maharaj said. “We looked at a series of clips. We said, this is technically how we’ll adjust. John has a set routine. He’s confident in it. He likes to see it, deal with it and move on very quickly.”
The Ducks have much to prove here. The series is tied 3-3, but it’s hard to say the Oilers haven’t been better. The Ducks led Game 4 for 23:51, they led Game 5 only when Corey Perry cut past Draisaitl and scored on Cam Talbot in the second overtime, and they of course did not lead Game 6 at all.
All three of their comeback goals in Game 5 came on 6-on-5 situations, with Gibson pulled, so they have only two even-strength goals in the past two games. They haven’t scored on a 5-on-4 power play since Game 2.
Connor McDavid was not one of the 12 Edmonton skaters, out of 18, who scored at least one point Sunday. That fact is sort of like a hailstorm on April. Not likely to happen twice in a week.
It also might seem strange to mention the enormity of the vaunted First Goal, considering how often the Ducks have stormed back from two and three goals down. But Game 7s are different. In the past 16, the team that scored first won 13 times.
So, as simple as it sounds, it’s up to Gibson. The Ducks made three mistakes early Sunday and all three wound up in Gibson’s net, through the five-hole.
“For John, it’s a learn-and-move-on situation, not a reset,” Maharaj said. “The first goal he gave up, I’d equate it to a baseball player facing a fastballer, and then he gets a changeup. It looked absolutely horrible. But it probably should happen more often than it does.
“This is where experience comes in. John might be 23, but he has a lot of experience. He won an under-17 gold medal. He won an under-18 gold medal. He won a World Juniors gold medal. He won a bronze medal in the World Championshps when he was 20. Those games gave him a lot of practice dealing with the pressure situations. So you don’t want to overcoach. It’s relaxation and focus.”
Like everything else in the playoffs, it’s easier said than won.
Read more about Whicker: The light, red or otherwise, is trained on Gibson This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service
Powered by WPeMatico