2017 Playoff Preview: John Gibson vs Brian Elliott
The Calgary Flames haven’t won a game (regular season or playoffs) at Honda Center in Anaheim since the 2006 playoffs. The Anaheim Ducks haven’t exactly seen a Flames team like this one during that stretch. With superb goaltending down the stretch from Brian Elliott, and an exciting, youthful group of forwards – this Flames team is a force to be reckoned with.
The Ducks will not be taking them lightly. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are aging, so this core has limited time remaining to win another Stanley Cup. John Gibson was nowhere close to the NHL during their original cup win. He would certainly like to make his presence felt as one of the top starting goaltenders in the NHL. Now is the time.
Gibson had a very solid year between the pipes for the Ducks. He finished sixth in the league in 5v5 goals-saved-above-average, despite only appearing in 52 games. He trailed only Sergei Bobrovsky, Cam Talbot, Braden Holtby, Matt Murray, and Carey Price in that regard – a pretty good group to be a part of.
The reason he only appeared in 52 games this season remains the biggest concern. Each and every year, he misses time due to injury. Jonathan Bernier filled in admirably this season while Gibson was out, but having to rely on their backup during a playoff series would be a less-than-desirable situation.
Gibson is bold and unpredictable in the crease. He has a very entertaining style – which should be fun to watch against the Calgary Flames offence.
Elliott and the Flames got off to a much-publicized horrendous start. Backup Chad Johnson was able to weather the storm for a while, then Elliott returned to form in the second half of the season. Much of that feeling-out process was about trusting the new defensive system behind new head coach Glen Gulutzan. With his newfound confidence, Elliott was unbeatable – going 12-0-1 at one point late in the season.
As a steady, reliable, and experienced playoff goaltender, the Flames will rely on Elliott to be the backbone of any long playoff run. After years of splitting time with Jake Allen in St. Louis, Elliott won’t have to worry about Johnson breathing down his neck. Finally he is “the man” for his team in goal – but how will he respond?
Even though his numbers improved as the season went along, Elliott maintained an abnormally low high-danger save percentage. At .791, it shows that if the Ducks are able to get into the middle of the ice, they could have a lot of success against the Flames. It will be up to the Flames D-core to buckle down, and hope that their goaltender can improve on that number as the games get more and more important.