Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller is on the cusp of finishing what might become the most outstanding season of his NHL career thus far. Unfortunately for Anaheim’s characteristically rock solid net minder, a few recent bumps in the road have the season ending on a note his play doesn’t necessarily deserve.
While Anaheim has spent their record year weathering the inescapable ups and downs of any NHL season, Hiller quickly became the one constant for the team night in and night out. From December to January, the Ducks’ goalie displayed an unconventional 14-game win streak during a time the team’s roster took a beating with unexpected injuries.
Hiller’s performance at the first outdoor series in California history, where the Ducks took on the rivaled Los Angeles Kings, continues to be his standout moment of the season. In re-watching highlights from Anaheim’s 3-0 win it’s still hard to grasp the level of play Hiller displayed against some of the sharpest shooters in the league. Even more impressive is the fact that he outplayed Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, a star many consider the best in the business.
Yet a few recent losses on Hiller’s back have given cause for concern as the Ducks head into the playoffs next week with the highest of expectations.
After backup goalie Frederik Andersen got the start for Anaheim’s first two home games last week, Hiller returned to net against the Nashville Predators on Friday night, proceeding to let in four goals on nine shots in the first period alone. Hiller was pulled from the game but had to resume play in the third period after Andersen’s bell was rung a little too much on a shot from Nashville’s Shea Weber.
Hoping for a different result, Hiller stepped back in net for the Ducks Sunday afternoon against the seasonably sleepy Edmonton Oilers. Except last night at Rexall Place, Hiller ended up on the sleepy end of the game as the Oilers took a decisive 4-2 win over the Pacific Division leading Ducks.
Naturally, as happens when anything goes astray for a team used to holding on to nothing but success, the critics came out in full force after the loss to question Hiller’s ability in the playoffs (his less than stellar performance in last year’s postseason is being thrown around again, as well). But before fans start jumping from this season’s bandwagon they should probably remember that night under the stars at Dodger Stadium and the fact that if there is a goalie in the NHL capable of coming up big when it counts, it’s none other than Hiller.