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Ducks goalie Gibson lives up to advance billing

by Corey Masisak

ANAHEIM -- The stories about a top young goaltender as he ascends to the NHL can often become like fishing tales.

Everyone who ever saw Patrick Roy or Tom Barrasso or John Gibson in his youth has a story about him stopping 60 shots and winning a game his team had no business winning.

Gibson's NHL career is four games old. His resume as an amateur and young professional is prodigious, and the fishing stories have already started.

John Gibson
Goalie - ANA
GAA: 0.00 | SVP: 1.000
"He showed [the ability to steal games] in Norfolk this year when teams outshot us like 50-10 and we would still win 1-0," Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell said of the time he spent with Gibson in the American Hockey League. "He's been unbelievable the whole year. I don't think anybody is surprised with what he's shown so far."

A little research shows Gibson never stopped 50 shots and won 1-0 this season. He did stop 47 of 50 once in a victory, and he did have a 38-save shutout. He helped the Norfolk Admirals win several games when they were outshot, including four times in his six Calder Cup Playoff starts before joining the Ducks for Game 4 of their Western Conference Second Round series with the Los Angeles on Saturday.

Give Rakell a pass though. He's been on the other end of Gibson's greatness a couple of times before, and he's probably just overly excited that he gets to benefit from having one of the best young goaltenders on the planet behind him instead of in front of him.

Rakell, 21, played for Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship and was one victory from a gold medal, but Gibson stopped 26 of 27 shots to help the United States win the tournament and himself win MVP.

It wasn't the first time for something like that. Rakell's Plymouth Whalers had the second-most points in the Ontario Hockey League in 2011-12 but were bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Kitchener Rangers and a certain 18-year-old goalie he'd see again in the WJC.

"My second year in Plymouth, he was the reason we didn't beat Kitchener that year," Rakell said. "We had a really good team and we were supposed to beat them, but we couldn't score on them. It was kind of like yesterday. We outshot Kitchener but we couldn't score. He was a big part of that. He's a good goaltender."

Starting a 20-year-old with three NHL games was an unconventional move by Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. Gibson made him look awfully smart with a 28-save, 2-0 win, and now this first Freeway Series is tied 2-2. Anaheim has reclaimed home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 with Game 5 at Honda Center on Monday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Player after player stood in front of television cameras and reporters with digital recording devices in the Ducks dressing room Sunday, and each praised Gibson for his demeanor, poise and unflappable confidence.

The Ducks have aspirations to win the Stanley Cup, and the players seemed totally comfortable turning over the net to someone who was born three months after Teemu Selanne scored 76 goals as an NHL rookie in 1992-93.

"[Saturday] night was really something special," Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "He did exactly what we've heard he does. He just stopped everything. He made the routine save look easy. He made the difficult save every time. It was so fun to play in front of him. I think we are so lucky to have a guy like that come in and win a playoff game for us.

"You never turned on the bench and said, 'Oh man, that was a lucky save.' Everything he was in position for, everything hit him. He was so poised and confident. It just made us feel as defensemen so good that if and when they were going to get a scoring chance that John Gibson was going to be there."

Lovejoy came to the Ducks from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gibson grew up near Pittsburgh in a small community south of the city. He's one of four Pittsburgh-area players who have become a symbol of the youth hockey programs in that part of the country.

Gibson, Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller and Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck were taken in the first 64 picks of the 2011 NHL Draft, and they each played in the NHL before his 21st birthday.

"It was cool. I think hopefully it help the city of Pittsburgh a lot with youth hockey and everything like that," Gibson said. "Playing with them on USA teams and national teams was pretty cool. I think it helped get Pittsburgh on the map with youth hockey.

"I talked to J.T. [Saturday] night. I've been talking to him throughout the playoffs. ... I think last year Brandon Saad brought the Cup to Pittsburgh and that helped a lot. Me and J.T. and Trochek all played in the NHL this year, so hopefully we're helping the youth development. Hopefully kids want to be like us."

Miller and Gibson played together for the Pittsburgh Hornets and at the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Saad and Trocheck ended up together with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL.

The four represented the United States at the WJC in Ufa, Russia. Trocheck had a goal and an assist in the gold-medal game, and Miller assisted on Trocheck's goal.

Pittsburgh had a few products make it to the NHL before them, most notably Columbus Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ryan Malone, but these four brought youth hockey in Western Pennsylvania (and Eastern Ohio; Miller is from across the border) to a new level of visibility.

Lovejoy and his Penguins teammates found that out one night at Consol Energy Center.

"I never met [Gibson when he was a kid]," Lovejoy said. "People in Pittsburgh are very protective of their own. I remember before a preseason game playing Chicago, there was a video tribute to Brandon Saad, which the whole team thought it was ridiculous. He had never played an NHL game. He was supposed to be a very good player, and obviously he has turned into a very good player, but he wasn't exactly a Hall of Fame player coming home. It was his first preseason game.

"I have friends on Twitter and friends still in Pittsburgh who are so excited about John Gibson, but they're not nearly as excited as the guys were in this room [Saturday] night playing in front of him."


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