GLENDALE AZ - JANUARY 15: Goaltender Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks looks up a the video board during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 15 2011 in Glendale Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It's maybe not the best postgame to say this, but Jonas Hiller has been spectacular this season, while seeing more rubber than the Michelin Man and very little in terms of relief innings from Curtis McElhinney. Hiller has earned a legit bid to the All Star Game as the Western Conference's lone representative.
Arthur, after some fatigue and some suspect performances in back to back games for the past two seasons, you've always pointed out that Hiller hadn't adjusted to the NHL schedule yet. Are you ready to believe he's adjusted this season?
Well, he's on pace to finish with the most games played in the league, but I can't definitively say he's adjusted until he crosses that 60 game bridge still as strong as the player that earned the All Star bid. But I believe he will, and I want to believe that he has fully adjusted. As much as I warned people against anointing him as a flawless workhorse goaltender until he proved it, I also believe very strongly in European and Eurasian developed players. I mean, I'm a college hockey fan, it would be hypocritical of me to say that Canadian development is superior to having fewer games and plenty of practice time. Also, I've always allowed for the fact that Hiller actually needed to see MORE time to open a season so that he could adjust.
And I know some fans don't really care about having a goaltender that can handle the schedule, but it is important, especially on borderline playoff teams. Randy Carlyle insisted on putting Hiller in back to back start situations for the past two seasons, despite some atrocious outings, and he did it because that's something you have to be able to expect from your starter. By that same token, as rough as the opening of this season has been, we had to expect that Hiller would steal some games for us, and he did. We may need him to steal even more down the stretch, so the expectations won't abate moving forward.
For now, Jonas Hiller has me believing he's become the player that everyone was ready to declare him two years ago.
Hiller has been a revelation this year. The talk is starting to shift from All Star to Vezina candidate. Tonight's performance is indicative of the reasons he won't be able to stay in those talks for long. The Ducks inconsistent efforts in front of him are going to balloon his GAA numbers right out of serious consideration for a goaltending award, and that's a shame. Hiller is athletic and has stolen more than a few games for the Ducks. He's earned every cent of his contract money. He faces tons of shots and a defense that can either clear rebounds or watch him work. Hiller's true value is unknown. On a team where Bobby Ryan isn't giving the puck up on the doorstep, or Sbisa doesn't get himself pinned to the boards in the offensive zone, it might be possible to understand how good Hiller really is.
It might be impossible to know right now if he's truly broken free of those late season collapses, but he's definitely proven that he can handle the load of a number one netminder. He gives the Ducks a chance to win every night. He's definitely been an All Star. He can't be blamed for our struggles this year, and if the Ducks manage to fight their way into the playoffs, then he'll not only be the reason they make it but the reason they are a dangerous team. So far, I think he's done everything we could have asked of him as a number 1 goalie. Sorry we ever doubted you Hiller.