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Toast of the town: Jonas Hiller

by Eric Stephens

"In my opinion, if you picked the star in the series, Hiller would be the star."
-- Sharks coach Todd McLellan on Jonas Hiller's performance in the first round

A sellout crowd at the Honda Center serenaded the Anaheim Ducks goalie with a two-syllable refrain Monday night after a stellar performance in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Only this time, the chants were for Jonas Hiller instead of Jean-Sebastien Giguere after the Ducks finished off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Instead of the familiar "JIG-GY, JIG-GY" belted out, it was "HIL-LER, HIL-LER" that repeated over and over when the first star was named after the clinching 4-1 win.

This is what happens when you pitch two shutouts, make an average of 36.6 saves over six games and stop 220 of the 230 shots you face in your first Stanley Cup Playoff series. All of a sudden, people want to find out about Felben Wellhausen, Switzerland, where the 27-year-old Hiller was born.

Hiller took over for Giguere as Anaheim’s No. 1 goalie in early March after splitting time with the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner for much of the season. When it became apparent that Giguere couldn’t regain the form he displayed during four 30-win campaigns, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle turned to his backup for the team’s final playoff push.

During an eight-game stretch in which he tied the club record of seven-consecutive victories held by Guy Hebert, Hiller posted a 2.19 goals-against average and had a .923 save percentage.

But that was nothing compared to his work against the Sharks. Hiller lowered his goals-against to 1.64 and raised his save percentage to .957. San Jose coach Todd McLellan held the highest praise for the Swiss goalie after the Ducks' upset.

"In my opinion, if you picked the star in the series, Hiller would be the star," McLellan said.

The Ducks will be faced with an interesting dilemma before next season. Should they offer another shot to the veteran Giguere, who's still owed $13 million over the next two seasons and will be tough to trade, or should their turn the net over to Hiller, who’ll make $1.3 million in 2009-10.

But that's for another day. If Hiller keeps playing like he's been, perhaps the Honda Center should be referred to by another name. How does "Hiller’s House of Horror" sound?

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