Today in sunny Southern California, you would be hard pressed to find a hockey fan who isn’t completely familiar with the name John Gibson.
Within less than 24 hours, the rookie goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks, who was minding net in the minors a week ago, is now the top story of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And rightfully so.
Saturday night, Gibson led the charge as the Ducks evened up the series against the uptown rival Los Angeles Kings with a 2-0 shutout, turning Gibson into the first NHL goalie to record a shutout in both his regular season and playoff debut. Not too shabby for a 20 year-old kid.
After a couple hundred Ducks fans rallied at Honda Center late Saturday night to welcome their beloved team back to Orange County for a now best-of-three playoff series, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau announced Gibson would indeed start in net for Game 5.
And while Gibson has the sheer talent and rumored ability from teammates to remain calm under all areas of pressure, he has the ability to completely change the face of Anaheim’s game due to the simple fact that the Kings have no idea who he is. And clearly, no idea how to solve him.
Ironically enough, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty joked prior to yesterday’s game that he hoped Los Angeles’ offense would be able to push enough to kick Anaheim’s assumed starting goalie, Jonas Hiller, out of net so they would have a chance at Gibson, who Doughty naturally assumed was the weakest link in the Ducks’ armor. Given what the blue liner said prior to the game, he probably thought the Kings had been given a free ride to a 3-1 series lead when Hiller didn’t even start the game.
Not so fast, Doughty.
The Kings’ unfamiliarity with Gibson’s style of play, i.e. becoming super human at times with plenty of “how did he stop that” shot blocks, could turn out to be Los Angeles’ downfall in the series. After all, the Kings haven’t figured out a way to get past the net-minder quite yet. Will they? Eventually, sure.
But the real question left is will Los Angeles get past Gibson faster than Anaheim gets past Quick? And from the looks of Saturday night, maybe not so much.