Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau had a choice to make heading into the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Should he start red-hot first-year NHLer Viktor Fasth in goal, or go with veteran Jonas Hiller? The starter’s job ended up going to Hiller, and while that now looks like it was the obvious decision all along, it probably wasn’t that easy of a decision to reach. Each netminder brought the Ducks 15 wins this season, with nearly identical stats in every major category. While Fasth was one of the best stories of the season, it’s hard to argue that Hiller’s experience didn’t make him the better choice.
In game one of the Ducks’ series against the Detroit Red Wings, Hiller stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced to lead his team to victory. The only time he was beaten was with the Red Wings on the power play, and he got enough help at the other end from Nick Bonino and Teemu Selanne to hold on for the win. With Red Wings’ netminder Jimmy Howard playing some great hockey at the other end of the ice, this series is shaping up to be a goaltending duel. Hiller so far looks more than up to the task of matching Howard save-for-save, continuing to improve after a season in which he posted a 2.36 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
The case for Hiller to start the playoffs was further strengthened by his final three regular season starts. The Swiss goaltender won each of those games while allowing one goal in each, and Boudreau’s choice to go with the hot hand has paid off so far. With Fasth ready to go if things suddenly go bad, the Ducks are in great shape for a deep playoff run.