In the NHL – and really, all of sports – the best defense is a good offense.
Is that a tired cliche? Eh, maybe so, but it’s objectively true. Even in a world of shootouts, overtime losses where you earn a point, and, in the NFL’s case, ties, the only way to win a game – save golf – is to score more points than your opponent.
However, in 2020-21, where scoring is at an all-time high by hockey standards, having a good defense is pretty darn essential to keeping the puck out of your net and scoring points in games where you have no business in doing so.
In that regard, the Anaheim Ducks are incredibly well-positioned to weather the issues associated with this weird, short, high-scoring season thanks to having one of the best netminders in the NHL, John Gibson.
John Gibson is the Anaheim Ducks’ one-man point machine.
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Through their first six games of the season, the Anaheim Ducks have been blown out only once, in a 2-5 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. In each subsequent game, the Ducks have either won outright or been within one goal of their opponent at the end of regulation.
Of those five remaining games, Gibson has been in net for four of them and has helped his team secure six points.
Though the Ducks are an underwhelming – or encouraging, depending on your expectations – 2-1-2 in games with Gibson on the ice, the 27-year-old Pittsburgh native has played like one of the best goaltenders in the NHL – stopping 150 of the 160 shots taken on his net for an astounding 93.8 saves percentage, all the while recording a quality saves percentage of 80 which, *spoiler alert* is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
For his efforts, the NHL named Gibson their three-star performer of the week, the first goaltender to earn that honor for the 2020-21 season.
Not too shabby if you ask me.
While the Ducks aren’t totally bereft of blue-line talent, as Hampus Lindholm, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Cam Fowler form a pretty formidable top-end defensive rotation, it’s beyond clear that Gibson is not only the lynchpin that keeps Dallas Eakins’ defense together but also Anaheim’s best player – at least for right now.
Until the Ducks can get things going in the offensive zone consistently – maybe thanks to the addition of World Juniors MVP Trevor Zegras – this isn’t a team who is going to be blowing out a lot of opponents consistently. No, even in the very hot and cold West Division, the Ducks haven’t scored more than three goals in any of their first six games. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as, again, the Ducks have either outright won or taken the game to overtime in all but two of their contests this season, it does mean that Gibson isn’t going to have a lot of easy outings where he can simply coast off of an early 3-0 lead.
No, for the Anaheim Ducks to have any chance of stunning the world and securing the fourth playoff spot in the West ahead of the Minnesota Wild, the Arizona Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings, and the San Jose Sharks, they are going to need to rely on John Gibson early and often to stop 30 goals a game and generate as many points as possible even when they can’t pull out the W. If Gibson can keep up this current clip, he gives the team a chance, which, in 2020-21, is all fans can really ask for.