May 11, 2014

Gibson's Finest: John Gibson's Dramatic Debut

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau took a very big gamble on Saturday night.

The Anaheim Ducks are a team built to win this year, but Boudreau has clearly lost the trust of starting goaltender Jonas Hiller, as he opened the playoffs with rookie goalie Frederik Andersen. Andersen has played very well but has come down with an injured leg. With the Hiller-led Ducks down to the LA Kings in round two, Boudreau opted to recall another rookie goaltender from the minor leagues and start him in game 4.

Now this is not exactly just any rookie goalie. John Gibson is widely considered to be the best goalie not in the NHL and a can't-miss-prospect. But he has only 3 previous NHL games under his belt. Boudreau could have played it safe and go back with Hiller. By playing another rookie over the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent veteran Boudreau risked having a bad loss come all back on him for his gutsy call.

But Boudreau seems to have a golden touch with such gambles. Gibson dramatically debuted in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 2-0, 28 save victory, evening the series at 2-2. He is the first rookie goaltender to post a shutout in his debut since Andrew Raycroft in 2004. And, according to Elias Sports Bureau, Gibson became only the second rookie goalie in history (Hall of Famer Tiny Thompson in 1928/29) to debut both the regular season and the playoffs with shutouts.

Should Anaheim survive the Kings in round 2, it will be interesting to watch this developing goalie story. Hiller clearly will not return to Anaheim next season, but will he return in these playoffs? Can Anaheim really win with two rookie goalies, with their combined 31 NHL games experience prior to these playoffs? That could not possibly have been their plan heading into the playoffs.

When asked by the media which goalie would play in game 5, Boudreau replied, "Geez, I don't know. We still have (Igor) Bobkov that we haven't used."

By the way, the last Stanley Cup champion to have used three goalies in their playoff run was the 1938 Chicago Black Hawks. The Hawks used Mike Karakas for every minute of the entire 48 game regular season, but an injury forced the Hawks to use Alfie Moore and Paul Goodman for single games in their 10 game playoffs.

The 1937 Detroit Red Wings also won with three goalies. Normie Smith and Earl Robertson split the duties while little known Jimmy Franks relieved for 30 minutes in one game.

The 1928 New York Rangers also used three goalies - Lorne Chabot, Joe Miller and, quite famously, Lester Patrick.

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