2017 Playoff Preview, Round 2: Cam Talbot vs. John Gibson
One of the most fun playoff scenarios is the veteran starter against the up-and-comer – but for the Anaheim Ducks – Edmonton Oilers series, the battle of the newly-minted number ones may be one of the most fun we’ll get to see.
Coming into the postseason, the biggest concern for Gibson wasn’t his play – by all metrics, he was one of the league’s comfortably above-average starters – but in his durability.
In his first full season without tandem partner Frederik Andersen, the young netminder appeared in just 52 regular season games. It wasn’t by virtue of an excellent number two behind him, either; the Ducks, in actuality, had little confidence in any of the pieces they picked up to stand behind him.
Rather, he missed the chunk of time that he did due to injury – and as the playoffs wear on, his ability to continue playing a high-reaction style with last-minute movements and plenty of reach from a low lateral or sprawling save position could cost him.
So far during the postseason, Gibson has been exactly what fans saw of him during the year. Looking at the numbers tracked using the Double Blue Sports Analytics Save Review System, you can see he’s allowed few shots up high and a handful of low pucks, with a tendency to allow gaps in his post coverage when he overextends himself in an initial sprawling save.
While those black marks in his overall play are clear, though, Gibson remains lightning-quick reflexively – and the Ducks could have Cam Fowler back in front of him once things get underway against Edmonton. He isn’t perfect, but he’ll be a tough candidate for the Oilers.
On the other end of the ice, Talbot was Gibson’s opposite during the regular season.
Where the American-born netminder struggled to stay healthy in his first full year as starter, Talbot handled the league’s most grueling workload in the 2016-17 campaign – and that wasn’t counting the addition of newborn twins to his household mid-season.
With 73 appearances over the regular season, no goaltender in the NHL came even close to shouldering the number of starts that Talbot did – and the Oilers surrendered disproportionately close shots in the process, giving their starter one of the toughest sets of shots faced in the process.
Talbot is a more conservative netminder who stays on his feet longer than Gibson, but more based on a calm positioning-based game than anything.
By staying farther in his net, look for him to get picked top shelf with a bit of frequency – but if his regular season is any indication, don’t expect much in the way of fatigue-based mistakes. Even in a tough, relentless game six against the San Jose Sharks, Talbot failed to really get tricked into making any major mistakes. The biggest criticism against him may have been his rebound control in that particular contest; if that’s his biggest flaw in round two, then Anaheim has their work cut out.