Is Hiller a Killer?

ROBBY:
A 3-5-1 start is going to necessarily lead to some grumbling and finger-pointing. Over their first nine games, the Anaheim Ducks have given up a staggering 39.9 shots per game as well as an average 3.4 goals against per game. While many of us expected the defense to be a train wreck (and sadly we're all dead-on about that, although it's debatable whether or not the defense or our forwards playing defense are really to blame), we hoped that Jonas Hiller would be a steadying presence that could snare us a few games.

Thus far, that has not happened. In his first seven games, Jonas is 2-4-1 with a .911 save percentage and a 3.45 GAA. He's faced 257 shots over those seven games, good for second in the league. However, his 234 saves are also good for second in the league.

Join me after the jump to see if Jonas is really having a down year or if he's just succumbed to the volume of rubber directed at his net.

Here’s a break-down of Hiller’s stats across his first seven games for each season he’s played in Anaheim.

Record

GAA

Save Percentage

Shots Faced

2010-2011

2-4-1

3.45

.911

257

2009-2010*

3-4

2.62

.908

229

2008-2009**

3-1-1

2.00

.909

154

2007-2008***

1-2-1

2.29

.894

151

* Expanded to 8 games since he only faced one shot in seventh game in relief of injured Giguere.

** Pulled in seventh game, did not receive decision.

***Three partial games in the first seven.


The thing that jumps out at me right away is how pedestrian the save percentages appear over the first seven games. In the previous three years, Hiller finished with a save percentage that ended up being between 9 and 31 points higher than the percentage he recorded over his first seven games. With that in mind, it certainly seems like Jonas may be a slow starter.

The other thing that jumps out is the shots faced. While there’s some variation here because of his time on ice over those seven games, it’s pretty obvious that something changed between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 (Chris Pronger, where art thou?). Looking at the stats from Behind The Net, the change is not limited to blocked shots. Pronger led the Ducks in blocked shots in 2008-09 with 76, but last season, the Ducks blocked plenty of shots in his absence (though it's worth noting that both Lubomir Visnovsky and Aaron Ward had more blocked shots than any other Duck when they arrived in Anaheim). Since reconstructing the defense, Anaheim just doesn't move the puck out of its own zone as effectively as it once did, and that has led to a serious imbalance in the flow of shots.

The other significant change that occurred between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 was the departure of goaltending coach Francois Allaire. The noted proponent of the butterfly goaltending style was credited with helping Hiller harness his raw athleticism and better control his rebounds. Anecdotally, it feels like Hiller allows more rebounds now than he did before. Then again, having the tandem of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer around to scoop up rebounded pucks may have caused us to overlook this tendency in the past.

In conclusion, I don’t feel like the Ducks’ record can be laid at Hiller’s feet. He’s faced a ridiculous number of shots over seven games. Has he let in some softies? Absolutely. But when you’re facing almost 37 shots a game, that will happen. While we may expect Hiller to be superman, he can only do so much. Given the available data, there may be hope for improvement as the season continues. And as things stand right now, I’m not comfortable blaming Hiller for our slow start.

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