Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
On the one hand, you obviously cannot question the results.
John Gibson, the 20-year-old goaltender for whom the term “stud prospect” seems to have been invented, was tabbed by Bruce Boudreau as the Anaheim Ducks' third starter in as many games, and ended up making 28 saves in picking up a 2-0 shutout, in what just so happened to be his first-ever NHL playoff appearance. In doing so, he brought the Ducks to a 2-2 tie against a superior Kings squad, and effectively bailed out a team that really hasn't been very good in these last two games. But one assumes the point, for them, is that they won both of them.
Jonas Hiller always seemed out of favor in Anaheim, and his being the starting netminder in this series seemed more a function of Boudreau not really having any better options than any kind of faith in him. He was spectacular in Game 1, saving 33 of 36, and dreadful in Game 2 (just 14 of 16). The decision to go with Frederik Andersen in Game 3 was not all that surprising as a consequence, but unfortunately for Boudreau's plans to shake things up, he picked up an injury with about 10 minutes to go, and in came Hiller again.
Andersen had, to that point, been very good indeed, allowing just one goal on 23 shots, but injuries cannot be avoided. The question of whether to go back to Hiller seemingly never entered the coach's mind. So in comes Gibson, who stops everything he sees and puts up a few highlight-reel saves to boot, and instead of down 3-1, the series is even.
Boudreau looks like a genius. Including his three regular-season performances this year, Gibson has now allowed just four goals on 115 shots (.965) against NHL competition. This in addition to his .924 save percentage in 51 appearances across the AHL regular season and playoffs this year. So really, Boudreau couldn't have necessarily gone wrong in calling on him, but the question is — or at least should be but isn't because of the result — why he did so at all.
Boudreau said after the game that he knew Gibson would do well because of rookies' adrenaline when they get into their first NHL playoff games, but that comes off as confirmation bias. He had the chance to use the best young goaltender in the world, used him, and it paid off. Probably better than he had any right to expect, or the Ducks deserved. Plus, there's a pretty good chance that he would have gotten a decently strong performance out of Hiller anyway. He's only at .900 for the series (but .918 for the whole postseason), but this year against the Kings, he went .977 in two appearances, and in his career, he's .928. You can say what you want about the way in which he's fallen out of favor over the last two seasons, but most times these teams meet, Hiller is generally guilty of regicide.
The bigger concern for Boudreau shouldn't even be who is and isn't starting for his team, it's what the hell's going on with every other player on the roster. Yeah, Hiller had a tough Game 2, but in general his goaltenders are stopping what should be expected of them; even before Saturday night's game, the Ducks' goaltenders had a .916 save percentage. Now it's up to .937. The rest of the team has simply been atrocious.
In the last two games, which you'll recall is 120 minutes of hockey, they've put a combined 36 shots on Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones. The Kings' backup, though, only faced three shots coming on in relief as he did on Saturday, but that was over 40 minutes. Let's just say that again: The Ducks had three shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of Saturday's game, which they led 2-0, sure, but it was a game they should have been desperate to win. There wasn't much of that desperation in evidence when they were outshot 12-0 in the second period alone.
The Ducks are getting flat-out pushed around at even strength in this series, and there's no other way to say it. The Kings have attempted nearly 56 percent of all shots taken at even strength in this series, and in these last two games alone, that number is more than 64 percent (110-61). The Ducks have won both of them, but the numbers, and the ol' eye test, say they shouldn't have.
There's that old alleged wisdom about how when you start your backup goaltender, your team plays better in front of him. It “shakes things up,” and so on. Given Andersen and Gibson's numbers in Games 3 and 4, that certainly seems to be holding up now. Maybe Hiller would have buckled under the Kings' onslaught, and obviously we'll never know, but given the way his teammates have played in front of the backups, he couldn't have really been blamed.
Gibson is almost certainly the future of American — and perhaps global — goaltending, and Anaheim's patience for Hiller has clearly long since run out. But Boudreau isn't a genius for plugging in a future star at this juncture. He was a coach who thought he was running out of options. Let's face it, turning to a rookie goaltender with all of 181 minutes' experience at the NHL level down 2-1 in a series against your archrival is the very definition of desperation. Though it didn't burn him in this game, it also didn't address the real problem the Ducks have had so far. It, in fact, distracts from it.
If the Ducks want to win this series, they can't lean on their goaltending to keep them alive while getting outshot by huge margins every night. Not against a team of the Kings' quality.
While that strategy, such as it is, worked twice so far, the odds that it will continue doing so are extremely low.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Like the Ducks themselves, their AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals went with a new goalie on Saturday, and also won. How many more new goalies do these guys have in their system?
Boston Bruins: How long until they run Party Boy Brad Marchand out of town now? He doesn't have a goal yet this postseason!!! Trade him!!!!!!!!
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres finished 30th by a mile and raised season ticket prices 4 percent. Interesting move from Terry “If I want to make money I'll dig another well” Pegula's club.
Calgary Flames: Mikael Backlund continued his excellent 2014 work with two goals in the first game of the World Championships. Since January 1, he's scored 15-11-26 in 38 games, which isn't bad at all for a second-line defensive center.
Carolina Hurricanes: No surprise here but the Hurricanes are probably going to shop Cam Ward this summer. His .902 save percentage and injury problems limiting him to just 47 games over the last two seasons make him a steal at a $6.3 million cap hit for two more years. (Two words of advice for Ron Francis: Amnesty buyout.)
Chicago Blackhawks: There's a freaking Blackhawk Street in Chicago. How has this never been mentioned before?
Colorado Avalanche: Haha, “could.”
Columbus Blue Jackets: They're gonna throw a billion dollars at Ryan Johansen. And man, they really should. He's one of just three Blue Jackets ever to get both 30 goals and 30 assists in a season. Rick Nash did it four times, and Geoff Sanderson did it once.
Dallas Stars: Shout out to Antoine Roussel and the French national team for beating Canada in a shootout to open the World Championships. Big fan.
Detroit Red Wings: Don't be shocked to see Anthony Mantha, who scored 57 goals in as many games for Val d'Or this season, in the NHL sooner than later. He finished his junior career with 129 goals in 189 games, which is not bad I guess.
Edmonton Oilers: But if he's too nasty he takes penalties and is a selfish Russian again. Very precarious tightrope for Nail Yakupov to walk.
Florida Panthers: To be fair, the Panthers' AHL affiliate would be a lot better if the NHL affiliate had actual NHL players on it and didn't have to call up AHL players all the time.
Los Angeles Kings: You know that thing about “you're not in trouble in the playoffs until you lose at home?” No one in this series has done that yet.
Minnesota Wild: This column revisits the Cam Barker-for-Nick Leddy trade. But hey at least the Wild bought Parise and Suter, huh? Remember that? Yeah that was so cool so don't worry about Nick Leddy.
Montreal Canadiens: Oh this team's Norris Trophy-winning player who has 12 points across nine games in this postseason has “the makings” of a good defenseman, does he? Poor PK Subban really doesn't get any damn respect in this league. It's pathetic.
Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: The Finnish World Championship team is literally Pekka Rinne, Olli Jokinen, and no other NHL players. This is going to go well for them.
New Jersey Devils: No. No no no no no. No no no. No. No no no no no. No no. No.
New York Islanders: On the bright side for the Islanders, Nino Niederreiter wouldn't be doing a thing in these playoffs if they'd kept him.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist's career numbers in an elimination game headed into last night? Over his last 10, he's 8-2 with a .953 save percentage. Worked out great in Game 6.
Ottawa Senators: Dave Tippett no longer hates Kyle Turris's guts. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess.
Philadelphia Flyers: Should the Flyers bring back Kimmo Timonen? Not if they trade for Shea Weber!!!
Phoenix Coyotes: The Edmonton Oil Kings rely heavily on Henrik Samuelsson, a Coyotes prospect who finally combined “taking a ton of penalty minutes” (97) with “scoring a roughly equivalent number of points (95) this season. Apparently he's very easy to agitate, which should go great in a division with Alex Burrows, Corey Perry, and Raffi Torres.
Pittsburgh Penguins: This constant worry about not having Brooks Orpik in the Pens lineup is baffling.
San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl I missed you so much.
St. Louis Blues: Kirk Muller is probably going to be an assistant for the Blues next season. Hey, he was good at being an assistant. I remember that.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts might try to deal one of their goalies this summer. You'd think it would be the one who cost them a pair of second-round picks two years ago and has an .897 save percentage with Tampa and who is an RFA.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Not surprised. Just disappointed.
Vancouver Canucks: Pretty good in-depth look at Jim Benning, who's almost certainly the Canucks' next GM.
Washington Capitals: Hershey coach and candidate for the vacant Caps job Mike Haviland opted to go coach Colorado College's hockey team instead.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are working hard to help Winnipeg deal with children's mental health, which is awesome and great.
Play of the Weekend
Everything about this Subban goal is amazing.
Gold Star Award
Thank you Michael Sam for getting to the NFL and then making a bunch of horrible bigots uncomfortable. You are great.
Minus of the Weekend
If someone ever wanted to bother with Shawn Thornton (not that they would because he'll never be on the ice with five minutes to go in the game because he sucks) and squirted him with water from the bench, he would have an aneurysm and die on the ice from the lack of respect it must have taken. But when he does it, it's all so funny hahaha. He's the worst. Get out of the league.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
This trade proposal from user “OkpoTavanek” is great, but the first reply is even better.
1st round 5th overall
One of okposo/strome
Possible other piece
No move is forbidden except the forbidden move.