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John Gibson in fine form for Ducks

Goaltender ready to lead Anaheim on playoff run after return from injury

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

Anaheim Ducks goaltending coach Sudarshan Maharaj had dinner recently with the man considered to have been one of the best goaltenders in the game, ironman Glenn Hall.

What Maharaj heard from Hall, who is 85, sounded familiar, a lot like some of the words coming from his prized pupil, Ducks goaltender John Gibson.

"Mentally, in terms of how [Gibson] approaches the game -- I'm not by any stretch comparing him to Glenn Hall," Maharaj said. "But I was sitting across from Glenn Hall in Edmonton the other night.

"So many of the things he said were almost identical to the way John sees the game. So there's no question there's an element of that in him."


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Other comparisons are harder to unearth about Gibson, 23, who has carried the can't-miss label around the past few years almost like an extra piece of equipment.

"In terms of how he plays, I've not had one that plays like Gibby," Maharaj said, smiling. "Ever. He's definitely unique in the style of game he plays."

When Gibson was limited to one appearance in a stretch from late February to April 1 because of a lower-body injury, there was a natural concern about his playoff readiness.

Except from Gibson.

"I've said it before: I didn't forget how to play," Gibson said after recording his sixth shutout of the season in a 4-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. "I just got hurt. Sometimes I think people might think you kind of lose it or something. But you put in a lot of work when you're hurt to make sure and you don't miss a step.''

The supporting evidence for his case is strong.

Gibson returned on April 1 and made 34 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss at the Edmonton Oilers, allowed one goal in a 3-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, followed by his shutout against the Blackhawks.

His goals-against average (2.22) ranks fifth in the League, and his .924 save percentage is tied for fifth. Gibson's six shutouts rank sixth in the NHL, three behind league-leader Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals.

Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm, out with an upper-body injury late in the regular season, thought the break during the season could help Gibson for a potentially long playoff grind.

"He was out for a bit, but I don't think he was out forever," Lindholm said. "I heard him say it's not like you forget how to play hockey coming back. When you come back from an injury like that, you feel fresh. You feel better. I think he feels confident.

"I know myself, if you come back from injury and it's healed, you usually feel fresher and more ready to go."

In Gibson's absence, No. 2 goaltender Jonathan Bernier went 10-1-2 in March with a .941 save percentage. Gibson didn't have to rush back and Maharaj said they spent a lot of time during his injury layoff working on technical aspects.

"If you over-structure a guy like John, then you end up restraining what he does naturally," Maharaj said. "Again, I think that speaks to the great instincts he has. He can come back in and just rely on those instincts to play.

"Whereas I think a lot of goalies that rely solely on technique need to have that time to regain the technical form."

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