Jonas Hiller kept the Ducks in a game with the Blackhawks despite an abysmal effort by his team in the 2nd, and a lackadaisical effort in OT (which included an Anaheim power play that opened with Hiller fielding shorthanded bids). Before regulation closed, Hiller would face 38 shots, the last five of which might have foregone the need for overtime if not for the netminder's athletics.
Daniel, we talk all the time about whether or not Hiller can manage the starts, but what about the shots? Do you think Jonas Hiller can keep up this pace of consistently keeping the Ducks in games despite daunting shot totals?
Someone find me a magic 8 ball! There's really no telling what's going to happen. Hiller spent a nice chunk of the last 15 or so games last season being injured. During a lot of your writings about Hiller being the number 1 guy in Anaheim, you focused on the shorter seasons he was playing in Europe. The injury and rest at the end of last season certainly didn't alleviate any fears about what might happen with Hiller shouldering a big burden. Still, while we can't know for sure, I think he's come a little way since then.
We all knew the Ducks were going to need brilliant goaltending to have a shot this season. Hiller has been pretty dependable, and at times phenomenal. He looks like one of the top netminders in the league for long stretches of games. I'm convinced he can keep them in games like this last one in Chicago. The real ray of light for me is that on the recent home stand there weren't a lot of games where the shot totals were getting above 30. If the Ducks can keep the home totals around 25 and let McElhinney do most of his work on the road to relieve Hiller of a couple of tough nights, then I think Hiller will have enough in the tank to help the Ducks down the stretch.
It's counterintuitive to say that he could handle the shots when he's seemed to tire down the stretch the past two seasons. If the starts are getting to him, you would think an increased work load might get to him as well. Plus, the quality of shots seems to have increased, but that's just me eyeballing it with a perspective tainted by my disappointment in this defense. Ultimately, I think you're right that we just don't know. We can only make guesses at what Hiller's never done before. He seems to get tired in the middle of the season, too, so who am I to say he doesn't maybe enjoy the extra rubber?
Hiller's average last year (31.5) was equal to Craig Anderson, who saw the most shots in the league but played 12 more games than Hiller. So he was on a steady pace last season. Maybe not the grueling pace and bare-bones rations of a Tomas Vokoun but definitely a strenuous pace with meager rations. So maybe you're right that the answer is to use McElhinney effectively to push Hiller's totals off their current 35 shots per game pace.
I have to say, though, I think it's strange that on the first year of his four-year contract extension, we're still not really sure what we have in Jonas Hiller. I keep thinking back to the Olympic broadcast crew stunned as they watched Hiller looking tired and shaky just one game removed from his dominant performance against Canada. Maybe he's the guy that just needs to work through it and find his NHL pace, maybe we have to shelter his starts with a solid 25-30 game backup, maybe he's the kind of guy who tires in the last ten games of a 60 game season (or implodes in the last 10 of a 70 game season) or maybe he's the kind of guy who would rise to the occasion of a 75 game season. We just don't know yet.