By Kyle Shohara | AnaheimDucks.com
One of the biggest storylines coming out of training camp last September focused on Anaheim’s goaltending competition. The calm, cool and collected Frederik Andersen and the rookie John Gibson broke camp with the potential to platoon the starting goaltending position, a scenario that whet the appetites of Ducks fans.
And it was the 21-year-old Gibson (then 20 at the time) who earned the start for the season opener in his native Pittsburgh back on Oct. 9 at CONSOL Energy Center. Three unanswered goals made for a dreadful opening 20 minutes for Gibson, who eventually gave up six in a 6-3 loss to the Penguins.
Gibson rebounded nicely with two consecutive wins (4-1, Oct. 24 vs. CBJ and a 38-save shutout on Oct. 28 at Chicago), before being shelved for an extended period in early November.
Gibson’s groin injury during the club’s pregame warmup on Nov. 2 at Pepsi Center kick-started a whirlwind scramble to find an emergency backup for the game’s intended backup, Jason LaBarbera, who flew cross country from Norfolk, Virginia, earlier in the day. Ducks goaltending consultant and former longtime NHL netminder Dwayne Roloson answered the bell, suiting up as a backup while the game’s opening minutes ticked away. Andersen was already ruled out for the game due to tightness in his leg.
The injury was a major blow for Gibson, who ended up missing six weeks.
Gibson was reassigned to Norfolk in mid-December, where he stayed for two months before being recalled by Anaheim in early February because of an upper-body injury to Andersen. Rising to the challenge, Gibson played a career-high 10 consecutive games from Feb. 10-March 1, which includes nine straight starts, culminating in a career night in which Gibson set single-game bests in saves (39) and shots (40) in a 3-1 win, at Dallas.
Though not nearly the sophomore season he envisioned, Gibson nonetheless finished with a 13-8-0 record with one shutout, a 2.60 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He established career highs in wins, saves (616), appearances (23) and starts (21), and ranked fourth among NHL rookie goaltenders in wins, saves (616) and shots faced (674).
Gibson finished his AHL season having played 11 games with the Admirals, posting a 6-3-2 record with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.
Gibson missed the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but served as a backup to Andersen for the second and third rounds. He did not appear in a game.
Gibson’s 38-save shutout at United Center on Oct. 28 showed the kind of performance he’s capable of putting together. The game’s lone goal was of the shorthanded variety, a Devante Smith-Pelly breakaway tally at 11:32 of the third period that silenced the soldout Blackhawks crowd.
Perhaps Gibson’s biggest save of the night came at the 1:31 mark of the third period, when he stonewalled Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who launched a one-timer rocket from the slot that was knocked away with Gibson’s outstretched right pad.
“I just tried to simplify my game, do the little things and get back to the way I play,” said the mild-mannered Gibson that night.