Hockey

Game #13 – Hawks vs. Ducks Spotlight: The Best Goalie In The League Is The Winter Soldier

If you were to guess which goalies had the best save percentage since 2015, you might get Ben Bishop. He’s been really good, played behind some good Lightning teams, and then behind the trapping Stars last year. You’d figure Andrei Vasilevskiy would be there too, given that he pushed Bishop out of Tampa. Robin Lehner would be a surprise, but that’s the case. Wouldn’t shock you that Corey Crawford is fifth, even though he hasn’t played behind a good defensive team since before this stretch. Sergei Bobrovsky scans as well.

Did you know John Gibson is tied for first?

Yep, and there’s an argument that he’s the best goalie in the league. Because while the others have played behind at least competent teams for most of that stretch, Gibson was forced to prop up the Randy Carlyle led Ducks team, and remember that was a coach that couldn’t make toast. Last year, he even had to deal with a Bob Murray led Ducks team, and you can pretty much how that goes.

Last year, Gibson was the Vezina front-runner until he basically collapsed due to exhaustion. He was seeing 32 shots per game, but faded in January and February with SV%s of .900 and .822 in just three Feb. starts after getting hurt. He rebounded in March with a .922, while still facing over 33 shots per game.

He might have been even more impressive the season before, as he put up a .926, and according to HockeyReference.com saved 25 goals over average that year. That’s something like 12-14 points in the standings, which would be the difference from finishing second in the division as the Ducks did and not even coming close to the playoffs. That’s how important Gibson has been to the rebuilding Ducks. Sadly…well, not sadly because fuck Anaheim, he couldn’t do much about the rest of his team being severely outplayed by the Sharks as they were swept out quicker than you can say, “Orange County Needs To Be Blown Up.”

And that’s probably Gibson’s last frontier to break, as he doesn’t have a signature playoff run. He backstopped the Ducks to the conference final three seasons ago, where they were pulverized by the Predators, but hardly anyone remembers that. The collapse against the Kings five years ago is still fresh in the mind.

The other thing about Gibson, and it’s hard to believe because it was signed by Murray, is that he might have the best contract in the league. He signed an eight-year extension before last season that kicked in this one, and at 26 for the next eight years he’s making only $6.4M. Vezina goalies can make close to twice that, though that’s not going all that well for Carey Price or Sergei Bobrovsky. Gibson has time on his side, of course.

Whether the Ducks can give Gibson the support in front of him anytime soon, who knows? There are some kids that are promising, and Ryan Getzlaf seems to be summoning up a death rattle this season so far. And yet the Ducks remain one of the worst possession teams or goals-share teams, which means Gibson and backup Ryan Miller are getting shelled most nights. They won’t have to worry about that tonight obviously, but for the next eight years, Gibson will provide a baseline for this team they can build from that’s ahead of most bottom-feeders.

Murray actually got something right. What a world.

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