Jonas Hiller must have known going into the Olympic hockey elimination round that the weight of Switzerland’s success depended largely on his play unless the Swiss team was able to find some of their missing offense in the course of 60 minutes.
Unfortunately, Hiller was nowhere near the top of his game at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Tuesday night, stopping only 19-of-22 shots in Switzerland’s 3-1 loss against Latvia. Those hoping for a Hiller vs. Anaheim Ducks teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry showdown are facing some disappointment today, as Team Canada will now face Latvia in tomorrow’s semifinals elimination.
Despite the fact that a goalie is the easiest person to blame in a team’s loss, Hiller is the last reason Switzerland’s quest for Sochi gold has come to an abrupt end.
Throughout the course of the weekend, Team Switzerland failed to create any sort of offensive connection, scoring only two goals in three games. Despite a relatively solid defense, the outcome of the games were entirely dependent on Hiller stopping shots, and he did. In fact, Hiller stopped every shot he faced in Sochi until Latvian Oskars Bartulis scored eight minutes into the first period of today’s game.
The early exit and return to Anaheim’s practice this week in no way means Hiller’s Olympic experience was a dud. If anything, it was the opportunity to showcase a goalie at the peak of his career, underrated because of team location, on a worldwide stage.
With Hiller’s impending free agency this summer, the impressive start and save percentage can only become additional factors in offers that are sure to flood him at season’s end. However, you might not want to mention Hiller and trade in the same sentence if ever in Anaheim. The goalie has earned fan favorite status over the course of his current record season.
Although it’s sad to see a goalie of Hiller’s caliber leave the Olympic spotlight in such a tough loss, every hockey player knows some days, you just can’t save them all.