ANAHEIM – Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen slid around his own goal crease in frantic final shorthanded minutes to preserve an important 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Defenseman Brent Burns used Andersen’s net as a target, blasting shot after shot. And Andersen stood tall for all of them to keep the Ducks ahead after Cam Fowler's high sticking penalty with 2:07 left.
“Whatever it takes to save the puck and keep it out of the net,” he said after stopping 30 of 32 San Jose shots on goal.
Just two days earlier the Ducks’ other netminder, John Gibson, stretched and contorted his body all over his crease in Bridgestone Arena to shut out the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Game finale.
One game counted. The other didn’t, but both served important reminders to Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who has been much maligned for his goaltending decisions in the past. This year, between Andersen and Gibson, there is no real wrong answer with who he starts every night.
Both have established themselves as starting NHL goaltenders and Boudreau can now feel confident and comfortable in either goaltender.
“They’re both going well and it doesn’t make it harder,” Boudreau said of how to pick between Andersen or Gibson. “We discuss it every day on who’s going and I think the goalies know they’re playing good and the competition is great for them and they get along really well with it so it’s good.”
Last season going into the playoffs Andersen earned the starting spot, but there were questions near the end of the year on whether Gibson would jump him. Gibson has known as the big-game netminder based off his 2013 World Junior win with a little more bravado and flair, while Andersen has been steadier if a little less spectacular. The previous playoff Boudreau had to choose between Andersen, Gibson and Jonas Hiller as injuries and inconsistency wrecked the Ducks’ postseason.
A Gibson injury eventually pushed Boudreau to go with Andersen and the netminder ran with the starting job.
In 2015, Andersen backstopped the Ducks to first and second round wins against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames. He then ran out of gas the last four games of the playoffs, allowing 18 scores in that span to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks lost three of four games to finish off that series. They blew a 3-2 Western Conference Final lead, and were defeated in Game 7 at home.
The 26-year-old Andersen began the year as the Ducks’ starter, but then went down with an illness in late November. During that stretch, Gibson, 22, took over and turned into an All-Star. He held down the net with a 1.91 goal-against average and .923 save percentage while going 11-7-2 in 21 games, and kept the Ducks steady as the team tried to figure out their offensive woes. The Ducks currently rank sixth in the league in goals allowed per-game but are dead last in goals per-game, even with scoring 26 in their last five contests.
In the past, there was worry that both were too green to succeed. Now Boudreau is confident with either. He showed no hesitation to go with Andersen in Tuesday’s big divisional match up against the Sharks – even after Gibson shut down the best scorers in the NHL in the All-Star Game’s new 3-on-3 format.
“I think we both know they’re good goalies and I think they’re both capable of winning big games and playing well,” forward Andrew Cogliano said. “It’s healthy competition. I’m sure none of them want to give up the net. So it’s a bonus for us to have two good goalies.”
Andersen was quick to say that the two don’t have a rivalry. Instead it’s more trying to match Gibson. He watched the All-Star Game and sounded jealous of Gibson’s ability to showcase his skills in a marquee setting.
“I love playing hockey so if I see hockey like the All-Star Game you want to be there,” Andersen said. “I use it as motivation. I know how well I can play and Gibby’s been playing well and deserved to go but I know how well I can play too.”
With the win over the Sharks, the Ducks jumped the Arizona Coyotes into the final postseason spot in the Pacific Division. The Ducks have won four games in a row with Gibson picking up two, and Andersen picking up the others.
Conventional hockey wisdom says a team that makes the postseason needs to stick with one goaltender the whole way through. For Anaheim they need to make the playoffs first, and then they’ll decide which goaltender will backstop them.
“There’s only one net but we still want to play every time,” Andersen said. “It’s just how it is.”
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