After being called upon to make his National Hockey League (NHL) debut last night against the Anaheim Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Brian Gibbons made sure he left an lasting impression on the club.
Scoring the Pens’ first tally of the game off a razzle-dazzle play made by center Evgeni Malkin, Gibbons’ added an assist on what would be the game-winning goal moments after, and finished his outing by being named the game’s ‘First Star’.
Not too bad for a guy who was undrafted out of college — who even got his first interview with Pierre McGuire after the game.
Starting the contest on the third-line alongside forwards’ Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter, Gibbons seemingly looked as if he’d been skating with them for the whole season. Going to the net and finding open-space for his linemates, Gibbons logged a plus-2 rating, all while playing a sound game for Pittsburgh.
What certainly became a memorable night for the Boston College product, was a shot at continuing his NHL career past that one game. Head coach Dan Bylsma sought to shift around line combinations, and although Gibbons wasn’t necessarily coming into the contest with high expectations, he was entering with great potential.
Ranking third in the American Hockey League (AHL) in points (22) before being recalled — tops on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as well — Gibbons also was tied with fellow teammate Simon Despres for the best plus/minus in the league (plus-13). So while the inexperience of the NHL level played into doubting a successful debut, Gibbons’ skills weren’t debatable.
Standing at 5-foot-8 and weighing in at 160-pounds, Gibbons isn’t the biggest hockey player, but he stands tall when his team needs him most. Playing against a club like Anaheim, the size factor definitely comes into play, yet Gibbons didn’t let that stop him from making an impact.
The 25-year-old is without a doubt a story fans’ love to hear about. Forgotten about on draft day, Gibbons is off to a great start in showing the naysayers they made a mistake.
Now, understandably this was one game, and we can’t judge the man just yet. However, it was a breath of fresh air to see him have a standout performance. The question that he faces in the near future is if he can keep it going.
For the time being, I don’t see how Gibbons gets left out of Wednesday’s matchup against Washington. A player hungry to make a name for himself, Gibbons’ planted the seed, and will now focus on securing his roster spot.
Where have I heard this story before — oh yeah, a guy by the name of Martin St. Louis — he turned out okay.