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Round 2

John Gibson vs. Cam Talbot

Differences between goaltenders could shape Ducks-Oilers series

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much like many NHL goalie coaches do before a playoff series, charted every goal scored against each goalie this season with the help of Double Blue Sport Analytics. Graphics showing where goals went in and shots were taken are nice, but the real value is in tracking and analyzing the types of plays that led to them, and whether they reveal strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that can be targeted.


John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks and Cam Talbot of the Edmonton Oilers has each continued to prove himself as a starting goalie. Each had an impressive regular season and bounced back quickly from getting pulled in the Western Conference First Round. Their styles, however, are at opposite ends of the spectrum between structured technique and raw skill. How those differences play out could determine the winner of the second-round series between the Ducks and Oilers, which begins Wednesday at Honda Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).


John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

There are few absolutes in goaltending, but goalies who rely more on timing and instinct tend to be more inconsistent and suffer from gaps between games. Gibson has already bucked that second trend this season, in part because his instincts don't disappear with time, Ducks goaltending coach Sudarshan Maharaj said. As for consistency, Gibson was steady to spectacular with a .924 save percentage in the regular season and improved on that with a .926 against the Calgary Flames despite allowing four goals on 16 shots in Game 3, when he was pulled.


Get it up: Whether sprawling forward to extend a leg at the last second or going into the splits, Gibson has a Gumby-like flexibility that ensures he is never out of a play in tight, something Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau found out on a rebound atop the crease with 20 seconds remaining in Game 1. Gibson threw out the left pad to take away what was shaping up to be an empty net, a highlight reminder to the Oilers that failure to elevate the puck, even when it looks like Gibson is out of the play, could result in a momentum-changing save.

Glove-side flops: Gibson gave up five goals along the ice on either side against the Flames and 41 percent of the regular-season goals he allowed came on low shots, a high total in the butterfly era. Some can be attributed to backdoor tap-ins, but he is more likely to end up stretched out and on his stomach when the play moves to his glove side. That tendency to reach rather than shift from side to side shows up on rebounds (26 goals in the regular season, two in playoffs) and also played a role in some of the 15 five-hole goals he allowed during the regular season; players were able to tuck pucks back in under him as he extended.

Video: ANA@CGY, Gm4: Gibson snares Gaudreau's quick shot

Screens and lateral play on power play: Gibson's movement inefficiencies can add up with multiple lateral passes on the power play, putting him behind on quick shots, a trend on display against Calgary and one that is exacerbated by traffic when he tries to look around bodies from a low stance.

Shots off rush: Gibson only gave up two rush goals against the Flames, including a shorthanded breakaway in Game 2, but 47.3 percent came off the rush in the regular season, well above the average of the 2,100-plus goals tracked for this playoff project. Though he allowed 29 mid- to high-glove goals in the regular season, he has good hands, but his free-flowing style sometimes leaves him off angle, which played a role in some of the clean shots that got past him or created rebounds.


Cam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers

Talbot set an Oilers single-season record with 42 wins and made an NHL-high 73 starts in the regular season, but more impressive was the way he stuck to his controlled style after getting pulled in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks. Talbot's efficient approach keeps him in touch with the edges of his crease, allowing him to beat plays on his skates with inside-out movements that prioritize angle before adding depth. It's a style that usually leads to more consistency, so seeing Talbot stick to it rather than panic and chase the play is encouraging.


High glove: With good size (6-foot-3) and active hands he doesn't overuse by reaching, Talbot doesn't open up much, which is reflected in the low number of shots that go under his arms. He forces shooters to beat him with good shots around the edges of the net, but his conservative depth can leave space high; the 42 mid- to high-glove goals (25 percent) he allowed in the regular season were followed by 5 of 12 in the first round. Four of the five goals he gave up on clean shots when he could set his feet and see the release were also on the glove side.

Video: EDM@SJS, Gm6: Talbot absorbs Burns' long slapper

Rebound control: Talbot controlled rebounds well, which is often tied to active hands smothering high shots with a glove or controlling low shots with the stick. Talbot gave up 43 rebounds goals during the regular season (25 percent) but only two against the Sharks. All but eight required multiple factors such as screens, tips and lateral plays, so the Ducks will need to make life hard for him in front of the net if they expect to get second chances.  

Low-high: Talbot gave up 36 goals on low-high plays, or passes from below the goal line, in the regular season, and four more in the first round. While there is sometimes a slight delay in moving off the post when he places his pad inside it, these are tough plays for the goalie to gain any depth or often even rotate into an angle on because they start on the goal line. 

Five-hole: If there was an exception to not opening up in the regular season, it was the five-hole, where Talbot gave up 26 goals. Part of it was lateral scoring chances that forced him to get across the crease, which opens up goalies as they move. Forty-one percent of his goals in the regular season came on plays across the slot line, an imaginary line splitting the zone below the top of the faceoff circles, and 81 of his goals (47 percent) were one-timers that didn't let him set after a lateral play. Four playoff goals have involved those cross-ice plays and three ended with quick shots or one-timers, including the only one between his legs. 

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