It’s no secret that the Anaheim Ducks are going through a bit of turmoil when it comes to their goaltending situation.
Youngsters Frederik Andersen and John Gibson have stepped up to show their worth as NHL caliber goalies which has threatened incumbent No. 1 goaltender Jonas Hiller’s position going into the playoffs.
It certainly doesn’t help that, after a stellar beginning of the season, Hiller seems to have lost his stride by losing his last three games. All we’ve been able to get from head coach Bruce Boudreau is that Hiller’s lost his confidence. Considering he hasn’t started since his loss to the Oilers a week ago, it would appear that the coaching staff has lost confidence in him as well.
Is there a case to make for Jonas Hiller?
Everything seems to be going against him these days, but I would argue that Hiller is the right choice to start in the playoffs. If Hiller can find his form and play to the best of his abilities, he can carry this team to a Stanley Cup, no question about it.
The most obvious advantage to starting with Hiller would be experience. For as well as they have played, Andersen and Gibson still combine for only 31 NHL games played. Hiller brings with him 326 NHL games worth of experience, not to mention 20 additional Stanley Cup Playoff games. In those playoff games he has posted some impressive numbers with a .935 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average. With a dominant Ducks offense, this should be more than enough for a deep playoff run.
It is worth bringing up his performance in the Olympics this year. He only allowed two goals in three games and posted two shutouts in that time. Granted, Olympic hockey isn’t entirely comparable to NHL hockey, but, considering his stats in the playoffs and the Olympics, Hiller has proven to show up big when it’s required of him.
Now is the time for Hiller to step up big and show us what kind of goalie he can be.
Some fans look at last year’s playoffs and place blame on Hiller for why the Ducks couldn’t beat the Detroit Red Wings. It’s worth pointing out that the Ducks never lost by more than one goal in that series. You could argue that if Hiller had stopped one more puck the Ducks could have won that series, but you could also argue that if the offense had scored one more goal the Ducks could have won that series.
Hiller gave them a chance to win and, unfortunately, the Ducks couldn’t capitalize.
A complaint sometimes lobbied against Hiller is that he lets in too many soft goals. It is true that Hiller lets in the odd goal that he should have stopped, but, then again, what goalie hasn’t?
Andersen’s game against the Kings last Saturday had one or two goals that can be considered soft. Couture’s goal against Gibson last Wednesday I would consider soft. Tuukka Rask, who I think of as one of the best, if not the best goalie this season, had a game against the Ducks in January where he gave up five goals, many of which I would consider soft goals.
Every goalie gives up soft goals, and when Hiller is off his game he gives up his fair share, but the opposite is true as well. When Hiller is on his game he stops pucks that have no right being stopped.
What’s a shame is that Hiller never got a chance to get in any play time after the Oilers game. If confidence is really the problem with Hiller, confidence can be gained just as easily as it can be lost. One bad game has thrown Hiller’s confidence and one good game can restore it. Unfortunately Hiller didn’t play in any of the last four games of the season and never got the chance to gain that confidence back before the playoffs.
In Monday’s practice report, Boudreau was legitimately torn between his three goaltenders. He said he thought he can’t go wrong no matter who he picks. He also brought up the fact that in the 06-07 series, the Ducks started Bryzgalov for the first series then Giguere started the next and just ran with it. These comments make me think Boudreau will start Andersen in the first series and see where things go from there.
For my money, Hiller should be the guy in net. If not right away, then whenever the coaches feel the team needs the best from their goaltending. Fans know what a dominant goaltender he can be and I trust that goaltender will show up when he’s needed here in the playoffs.
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