Five months ago staring goalie Jonas Hiller was in the midst of a franchise record 14-game win streak for the Anaheim Ducks. Tonight in Texas when the Ducks take on the Dallas Stars, Hiller will play bench warmer while Anaheim’s rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen gets his sixth consecutive playoff start.
My how the months have flown by and the times have changed.
When Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau announced Andersen would be in net for the playoffs eyes in Anaheim certainly rolled. And while the payoff of allowing an inexperienced goalie to carry a team through a high risk first round series is still to be determined, speculation of Hiller’s future with the Ducks franchise is at the forefront of bar gossip just the same.
Due to Hiller’s outstanding play throughout 99 percent of Anaheim’s regular season, including a still unbelievable shutout of the Los Angeles Kings in the first ever outdoor hockey game in California, many have screamed contract renewal for the goalie as he becomes a free agent this summer.
Any other team would be silly to let a player of Hiller’s caliber go, but Anaheim’s situation is optimistically different. Without much doubt the Ducks’ goaltending is the deepest in the NHL. Hiller is the certified starting netminder of the franchise, but Andersen has held strong when called upon all season. The rookie has certainly played to the best of his inexperienced abilities during this postseason as well.
Then enter AHL goalie John Gibson who, when Hiller came a bit unglued at the end of the Ducks’ regular season and Andersen was hurt, came into the NHL only to get a shutout in his first career game and went three for three in wins during his stint with the Ducks.
In addition to the unique depth in net, Anaheim is not a team left to survive only on the shoulders of their goalie having an outstanding night. Despite some gaps in defensive play throughout the season, the Ducks are talented and cohesive enough together to build a season on the backs of a goalie less experienced than Hiller if that eventually becomes the case.
Should Hiller stay in Anaheim? The heartstrings say yes — the man is a rightful fan favorite. But the Ducks don’t need him to survive, and that is where things become tricky in the hockey world.