Including a puck that slammed off his goalie mask and left seven stitches on his forehead in its wake, Jonas Hiller
stopped nearly everything that came his way in back-to-back games last weekend.
In receiving two straight starts for the first time of his career in place of an injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere (back spasms), Hiller played brilliantly in thwarting 71 of the 74 shots he faced against San Jose (2-1 loss) and Phoenix (2-1 win). He fulfilled coach Randy Carlyle’s oft-repeated request for his goalkeepers to “give the team a chance to win,” despite the Ducks only producing 28 shots of their own in the two games.
“Jonas has been playing tremendous for us all season,” Ducks defenseman Mathieu Schneider said, “but especially the last couple of games stepping in.”
Getting strong efforts from both the starting and backup goaltenders have been key reasons why the Ducks have made long playoff runs the past two seasons. Seeing Hiller progress with each passing game gives the Ducks coaching staff faith that the 26-year-old rookie can replicate the efforts of the now-departed Ilya Bryzgalov to back up Giguere.
"Back home, you’ve got to stay a little deeper in the net because you have to be aware more of the side-to-side movement. Here everybody shoots well. You have to play a little further out of the crease to have a better angle and be ready for those shots. I had to get used to it, but I feel more and more comfortable.” - Hiller
“Bryz provided us with goaltending that got us through some rounds,” Carlyle said. “He did it in my first year here and again last year. The way Jonas Hiller has played, we think he can continue it.”
Getting acclimated to the type of hockey played in the NHL was one of Hiller’s biggest challenges in coming over from his native Switzerland. After his first six months in the league, Hiller is content with the growth he has made as a rookie.
“I knew it would be different than back home in Switzerland,” Hiller said. “Back home, you’ve got to stay a little deeper in the net because you have to be aware more of the side-to-side movement. Here everybody shoots well. You have to play a little further out of the crease to have a better angle and be ready for those shots. I had to get used to it, but I feel more and more comfortable.”
Feeling the confidence his teammates have in him has also been a benefit. “That makes it much more comfortable and easier,” Hiller said. “You don’t have to think that much. You know your team is going to help you and you try to help the team. That’s the way it should work and that’s the way it works right here.”
|Hiller said the cut he suffered against the Sharks "was kind of funny. I took the shot and followed the rebound. Then I said ‘Holy cow, my head’s hurt. Oh, that’s not good.’ I was lucky it wasn’t worse.” |
Sometimes taking one for the team can be painful for a goaltender, as it was for Hiller on Friday night at San Jose. Amid saving a career-high 41 saves in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss, Hiller was peppered with a Jonathan Cheechoo slap shot from the right circle 8:15 into the third period that glanced off his mask.
After initially looking for the rebound, Hiller flung off the mask and fell to the ice in a heap. Luckily, he would be alright (since Giguere was not available to replace him) and after receiving treatment from the Ducks trainers, he resumed stymieing the Sharks. He and his teammates laughed about the play later.
“It was kind of funny,” Hiller said. “Everybody went ‘What were you doing?’ I took the shot and followed the rebound. Then I said ‘Holy cow, my head’s hurt. Oh, that’s not good.’ I was lucky it wasn’t worse.”
The Ducks are also fortunate, as the goaltender is coming into his own with a 2.09 goals against average, a .926 save percentage and a 8-6-1 record all while starting to conjure up thoughts that a new goalie tandem can repeat past postseason success.
Carlyle addressed the accumulating injuries to the Ducks’ roster after the team’s practice at Honda Center on Monday.
On Giguere (back spasms) and Ryan Getzlaf (upper body injury)
“Giguere is still having some spasms in his back. We don’t think it will be an extended period of time. From experience, in the coaching staff there are two out of three coaches that have had the same thing. It’s not a lot of fun. With Getzlaf, he skated before practice. We’re shooting for Wednesday for both players.”
On Perry (torn tendon in right quadriceps)
“Corey Perry had treatment this morning. He’s had huge success as far as range of motion. That’s a great point for that specific injury and where it is.”
On Ryan Carter (broken wrist)
“His cast is off and pins are out. He just started to skate. He skated by himself.”