LOS ANGELES -- Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau made another bold goaltending decision Saturday, with 20-year-old rookie John Gibson starting Game 4 of their Western Conference Second Round series against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
Gibson has three games of NHL experience but is one of the top prospects at the position. A second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft (No. 39), Gibson has developed into the most anticipated goalie prospect in years.
"It's tempting," Boudreau said after the morning skate Saturday. "He's a good goalie, and in the future he's going to be a tremendous goalie. Don't know if he's today's goalie."
Gibson helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, then took the starting job from Ben Bishop (a 2014 Vezina Trophy finalist with the Tampa Bay Lightning) at the 2013 IIHF World Championship and helped the Americans win bronze.
Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, had a .955 save percentage at the WJC and a .951 save percentage at the world championship. He had a .919 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average for Norfolk in the American Hockey League this season, and has a .955 save percentage during six Calder Cup playoff games.
He made his NHL debut April 7 against the Vancouver Canucks, an 18-save shutout. Gibson made three starts near the end of the season for the Ducks, winning all three and stopping 83 of 87 shots (.954 save percentage). He also defeated the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks.
Gibson is the third goaltender to start for the Ducks in this series. Veteran Jonas Hiller started the first two games, and rookie Frederik Andersen took the net in Game 3. Andersen was injured midway through the third period, and Hiller stopped seven of eight shots in a 3-2 victory.
"[Andersen] is not skating today," Boudreau said. "So that's an indicator that he's not ready to play. If he was skating, there would be a possibility of him playing, but we do not have the possibility of him playing today since he's not skating today."
The Kings lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, so it is fair to say Gibson would be starting the most important game of the 2013-14 season to this point.
Hiller has a .918 save percentage and 1.99 goals-against average in five appearances this postseason, but three have been in relief of Andersen.
This is not the first time Boudreau has made an unconventional choice with his starting goaltender. Prior to starting Andersen instead of Hiller in all six games against the Dallas Stars in the first round, Boudreau used 20-year-old rookie Semyon Varlamov in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals when he coached the Washington Capitals, benching veteran Jose Theodore.
Varlamov helped the Capitals past the New York Rangers in the first round and to a Game 7 with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second.
Gibson is the fifth starting goaltender the Kings have faced in 11 playoff games. The Sharks started Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock in the opening round.
"I don't see Gibson going in, personally," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after the morning skate. "I think it will be Hiller, he did a pretty good job last game in the third after not playing for 50 minutes. I don't see Gibson coming in but hopefully we can push Hiller out and make [Gibson] come in late."