(photo credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
By Jen D’Amico
The Kings didn’t only lose game 2 on home ice to their freeway rivals, they also lost their 2-0 series lead.
Having watched the game at my family’s house, who are all long time Kings fans, we were a house divided. There were looks of awe from both sides during the game. First, from us Ducks fans when coach Bruce Boudreau decided to start rookie goalie, John Gibson, over the expected Jonas Hiller. Having never played in a playoff game in his short NHL career and also never having faced the Kings, this was enough to make any fan nervous and skeptical of Boudreau’s gutsy choice. This was Anaheim’s third goalie in 3 games as Frederik Andersen was not available due to an injury sustained in the third period of Game 4. The second bold move of the night came when Kings coach Darryl Sutter pulled superstar and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Jonathan Quick going into the second period, after allowing the only 2 goals of the night by the Ducks in the first. He was also replaced by a rookie, Martin Jones, who faced just 3 shots the rest of the game.
Let’s talk about this Gibson kid for a moment. Just a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday, he became the youngest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his playoff debut. While he is fresh meat to the NHL, he has won both gold and bronze at the IIHF World Junior Championship. He was in the process of dominating the Calder Cup Playoffs in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals before the Ducks decided they needed him for a crucial Game 4. He stopped all 28 shots that came his way last night (well, he had a LITTLE help on one save from his Captain). Although Boudreau seems to think otherwise, from the fans point of view, Gibson on the ice lit a much-needed fire under our defense who seemed to find the kid in net as a reason to step up the protection a bit.
“I don’t think they think have to protect him,” Boudreau said. “They obviously have a lot of belief in him, but we talked about protecting our house a lot better today than we did in the last couple games and paying the price. That’s what you do when you pay the price and get in the way.”
Gibson acted like this was a week night in December, not Game 4 of the second round of the NHL playoffs. He played only 3 regular season games,posting a 3-0-0 record with a 1.33 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.
Another superstar this playoff season is Devante Smith-Pelly, our first goal scorer of the night. He is a +2 in his 9 appearances in 10 playoff games this postseason. He has found a comfortable spot on the Getzlaf-Perry line (replacing the frequently injured Matt Beleskey), giving the Ducks their first goal of the night from a blind pass from Corey Perry, and his third in this series.
Both teams have both of their wins on opposition ice, something that is hard to do but seems to be the norm across the league for the playoffs this year. However, Ducks have a stellar 4-1 record against the Kings in regular season play, with 2 wins at Staples Center (or, Honda Center North as some Kings fans jokingly refer to it as).
The Battle for So-Cal continues Monday back at the Honda center for Game 5.
“The fifth game is the most important game of the series,” Boudreau said. “It always is. They’ll play harder in that game than ever because they know that if they win it in our building, they have a chance to win it in their building. We better be ready.”