Breaking Down Bibeau’s Debut
Antoine Bibeau, currently the Toronto Maple Leafs most highly-touted goaltending prospect, got his first taste of NHL action Sunday night versus the recently demolished Colorado Avalanche. The Avs have been offensively toothless this season, so it promised to be a gentle immersion for the 22-year-old rookie. In the end, though the Leafs did dominate, Bibeau’s debut was far from a night off, as he allowed 2 goals on 28 shots in the loss.
Bibeau’s first test was on a difficult tip in front:
Bibeau reads the play well. With the puck-carrier on his backhand not threatening a shot, Bibeau is ready for the pass. He keeps his feet as he shifts, recognizing that the threatening player is moving back against the grain. He gets down quickly on the tip, and although he opens up five-hole space, he keeps his left pad sealed to make the save.
Throughout the game, Bibeau’s conservative depth was on display. He kept his toes in the crease on most kinds of chances, and seldom moved farther out to challenge. His footwork was sufficient, but he showed a tendency toward excessive movement:
Watch Bibeau’s feet and knees throughout this sequence. He frequently c-cuts then “shimmies” with both feet when his edges are re-engaged. It looks like Bibeau is perhaps making micro-adjustments, but in most cases he’s simply shifting weight needlessly between feet. He didn’t suffer for this tonight, but such extra footwork can cause delays in movement that spell the difference between a stop and a goal.
A similar problem emerges when the puck is behind the net in the same sequence. Bibeau does a series of head shifts that involve the rotation of his whole body, even though the puck doesn’t change position significantly. His constant turning to look the other way multiplies the odds of Bibeau being caught in transition from one side to the other. This is something to look for in the future, especially against teams that apply a strong cycle game.
Mikko Rantanen was responsible for Bibeau’s first career goal against. It was…unusual:
Shorthanded, Bibeau arrives in time to fight down the initial one-timer with his glove. As he swats the rebound, he gets somewhat caught up on the Avalanche attacker, preventing him from rotating left quickly, or even recovering on his right foot. Further complicating matters is his own defender clipping his skate, twisting Bibeau in the wrong direction entirely. His only option is to use the momentum to do a reverse spin and dive back toward the puck, but he has too much space to cover in too little time. Bibeau doesn’t play this perfectly, especially when he gets moving forward trying to swat the initial rebound. However, this is primarily just a series of unfortunate events.
After the first period, Bibeau found himself facing increased traffic from the Avalanche, which resulted in a few collisions. Gabriel Landeskog gave Bibeau his official welcome to the NHL with this high-speed impact:
Bibeau shook off this hit immediately, and to his credit, didn’t engage with other Avalanche players who ran into him in the blue paint. He didn’t let the contact become a distraction.
Bibeau’s best save was likely this effort on a two-on-one:
Bibeau remains characteristically deep, reading his defensive coverage well and anticipating the pass. He arrives so early that he has to work to avoid sliding too far: the shooter is coming down his wrong wing, meaning Bibeau has to cover more of the centre of the net. By the way he moves his blocker arm after the save, it looks like Bibeau was tempted to reach on the shot. Fortunately, he resists. He remains compact and keeps the hole between his arm and body sealed, making the save.
Overall, Bibeau acquitted himself well, and managed to please head coach Mike Babcock with his play:
Mike Babcock says he felt “comfortable” with Antoine Bibeau in goal: “He was six (foot) three the whole game.”
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 12, 2016
With former (and much shorter) Leafs backup Jhonas Enroth having been demoted to the AHL, Babcock’s words may well mean that Bibeau’s first NHL game won’t be his last chance to prove himself this season.