There were some unforgivable turnovers and lapses on defense in last night's game against the Caps, but that all seemed to fade into the background when the Caps potted a soft gamewinner past backup Curtis McElhinney, who failed to rise to the challenge of the pressing Washington squad and his own team's miscues.
Obviously, the Herculean efforts put forward by Hiller this season are a lot to ask of any goaltender, and a .774 save percentage on 30 shots still comes down to a single game and not a definitive reason to press the 'panic' button. BUT with Anaheim's number one goaltender out, questions of stability in the crease will arise.
Daniel, Ray Emery isn't set to make his Crunch debut until tomorrow, but do you think the veteran netminder deserves to get a Batphone, sight unseen?
It's hard to imagine a world where Emery needs to get a Batphone before he's even played a game, but that game against the Caps was terrifying. He was shaky on breakaways, once by a falling Ovechkin, and that game winner by Semin was beyond soft. The West is nauseatingly tight. The Ducks could literally be in the playoffs one day and out the next. McElhinney can't turn in performances like this down the stretch. Goalies need to steal games, not give them away.
Hiller's health is a huge question mark right now. No one knows what's wrong with him, and the Ducks need strong goaltending to make a decent run at the playoffs. Emery needs a Batphone. He needs one in his mask. We should be able to call him in the middle of the game, so he can leave in between periods if he has to. It's one thing to wait for a guy or two to turn it around while the other team is getting it done. If your goalie can't keep you in a game, there's nothing else that can be done. I know it's trendy to think that a team doesn't need a world class goalie to carry them deep into the playoffs. The Flyers were in the Cup finals last year, and the goalie who got them there isn't in the NHL right now. I'm not saying it doesn't happen; I'm saying that the Flyers play in the Eastern Conference.
I know Curtis was great for the Ducks recently, but let's not forget that before his recent positive performances, he got pulled from two starts in a row. The 4-8 seeds in the Western Conference are currently tied, and the Kings can leap over all of them if they win the game in hand they have on teams 4-7, or one of the three they have on the 8th place Flames. The Ducks need to worry. Every point matters, and if Hiller is out for long stretches of time, we're going to need someone other than McElhinney to put between the pipes, because Carlyle probably can't even look Pielmeier in the face.
Yeah, with Hiller a question mark, this isn't so much a question of whether or not Emery can do more for the Ducks than McElhinney, but probably whether or not he can do more for the Ducks than Pielmeier.
But on the subject of whether or not Emery can do more for us than McElhinney, I can't dismiss that it's possible. The teams that Anaheim faces down the stretch will all be playing with urgency similar to what the Caps brought last night.
Yes, there were turnovers and lapses by the defense, but the team also managed six goals, so it was a winnable game, and certainly one that shouldn't have been lost on a soft hat trick goal. Semin was dangerous last night. If he caught the puck while sitting on the bench, McElhinney should have gone down into the butterfly. In a tight race, the Ducks maybe can't expect a career backup to steal points, but he has to win the winnable games, the games that the rest of the team keeps winnable.
Emery's health is what it is, but above the shoulders, he's proven himself reliable. The competition and the pressure levels will only get higher, and Emery offers at least the promise of mental focus, even if his physical abilities are still a complete question mark.
Don't just get him a Batphone, get him a Shakespeare bust to hide the button that opens the bookcase leading to the Batpoles, where he can quick change from his Crunch uniform to his Ducks uniform.
[Editor's Note: Because we may be older than some of you . . . see below.]