Daniel, we said bringing Hiller back early was dangerous, and could really hurt more than help in a tight playoff race if the netminder wasn't ready to come up huge.
His heat check came back decidedly cold and may have sacrificed some of the momentum the Ducks were building. So, I have to ask, and it sounds crazy to ask it of a number one goaltender, but Daniel, is it dangerous to the Ducks' playoff chances to continue to try to ease Hiller back into the lineup right now?
Yes. At the end of the day, the guy hasn't played in over a month. He was rusty, and it cost the Ducks two points. I will say that that was the game that the Ducks could probably afford to lose on this road trip. It was a back-to-back against a team we've had problems beating over the years. Getting a day of rest and pursuing 2 points in Chicago will probably be a little more important.
Right now, there's just no telling how Hiller is going to react to a game. Hiller has been saying from day one that it's difficult to explain how he feels. This isn't an injury where a guy comes back and we know he's healthy. Hiller needs conditioning time. As it stands, I don't know if Hiller should be back in net for the rest of the year. Yes, he was the victim of some bad bounces. However, I think those are bounces that Hiller has demonstrated in the past that he can still get in front of for saves. As for the deflection, any of our goalies would have probably given that up.
At the end of the day, Hiller is a risk between the pipes until he can get acclimated again. There's just no telling how he'll react to the speed of an NHL level game. He could adjust fine, or we could end up spotting 3 goals to a team we need to take 2 points from. The Ducks still control their destiny, but not for much longer if they let points slip away in games against key opponents.
I think it's dangerous just because we know about what we'll get with the other two goaltenders. This is a bird in the hand situation, and it will continue to be one until the Ducks secure or are eliminated from a playoff spot.
Even assuming Hiller has recovered, you have to consider the fact that he took steps backward during his recovery, meaning you really don't know how much he might fluctuate, though he would feel healthy and ready. Of course we all hoped he would return the conquering hero, but this has never been a simple injury, so expectations of a simple recovery were, at the very least, unrealistic.
Is it playing it safe, laying up, to put two nickels in there knowing a dime could get you to the playoffs? Of course. And the Ducks MIGHT have a much easier going with Hiller, who is, in theory, worth a quarter, maybe even a whole dollar by comparison. But, we honestly don't even know if he's legal tender right now.