Anaheim Ducks rookie John Gibson was given the start in Game 4 of the Pacific Division final on Saturday night, replacing injured rookie Fredrick Andersen and playing ahead of veteran Jonas Hiller.
His team is down 2-1 in the series to the Los Angeles Kings. Gibson, 20, has three NHL games to his credit.
So, no pressure, kid.
Before winning in relief in Game 3, Hiller had been 0-5-2 in his career at Staples Center. He sat behind one rookie that night, and now sits behind another in Game 4.
This is a classic Bruce Boudreau move.
On April 18, 2009, he handed the Washington Capitals’ net to 20-year-old rookie Semyon Varlamov against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their opening round series, replacing incumbent Jose Theodore. Compared to Gibson, Varlamov was Marty Brodeur on the experience front: a whopping six NHL games, going 4-0-1 in the regular season.
Varlamov was outstanding, stopping 23 of 24 shots but was outdueled 1-0 by Henrik Lundqvist. He then shut out the Rangers in Games 3 and 5, and stopped 14 of 15 shots to win Games 7. He pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to seven games in the semifinals, although he gave up three or more goals in six of those games.
Thus begins the John Gibson era for the Ducks, as the highly regarded rookie – a winning goalie at world juniors and a U.S. Olympic camp invitee – is given the start in arguably the biggest game of Anaheim’s season to date.
Are going to see a rookie netminder not ready for the spotlight, or the next Cam Ward?