It’s been quite the road to playoff hockey for Christopher Gibson
Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2011, Gibson spent his junior days in Chicoutimi. A product of Finland, Gibson was released from the Kings organization and the Leafs signed him in the summer of 2013.
But playing time was sparse.
The previous season, goaltender Drew McIntyre won the hearts of Marlies fans with his athletic ability and highlight reel saves. The addition of several other prospects meant playing time would be difficult to get.
But it wasn’t any bother to Gibson.
“It’s about the process, everybody has to go through it,” said Gibson. “I want to use this as a development to help the team win every single day. I’ve looked at Drew McIntyre over the course of the two years that I’ve been here in Toronto so hopefully I can keep going in his footsteps and help the team go as far as possible.”
So far so good, with Gibson and the Marlies picking up wins in the opening two games of their playoff series with Grand Rapids. Another victory puts Toronto through to the Western Conference semi-final.
But about that process.
In Gibson’s first year in Toronto, he battled with McIntyre along with Garret Sparks for playing time. The competition had Gibson sent down for a short stint with the Leafs’ AA affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears.
This year, goaltender Antoine Bibeau came to the Marlies with much fanfare. His performance in the 2014 Memorial Cup put him in an immediate spotlight
It would have been easy for Gibson to feel a bit intimated, but he rose to the challenge.
Toronto got off to a 5-12-2 start and a playoff berth in considerable doubt, But Gibson was given more opportunity and he has taken advantage.
“He’s carried the majority of games down the stretch and he’s taken every opportunity to be the guy,” said Marlies Heads Coach Gord Dineen.
Gibson has been a true self-motivator and has been one of the guys in the locker room to keep the players spirts up when things were looking bleak in the early going of the regular season.
The biggest critic of his game, was Gibson himself.
“If anything, at difference times, maybe his confidence had wavered and we saw no reason for his confidence to waver,” said Dineen. “Where his game is at, we feel he has accelerated where he probably should be.”
Gibson credits Marlies goaltending coach Piero Greco for his development in his game. Greco has worked extensively with both Gibson and Bibeau throughout the years.
It’s Gibson’s time, having taken the reigns as the starting goaltender over the course of the last six weeks. As the games get more intense, the games get tighter and goals start to come at a premium. It’s incumbent Gibson to establish himself and believe in his game.
So far, so good.