Randy Carlyle spared Jonas Hiller another attempt at back-to-back starts last night against the Capitals. Since last season, the goaltender has had trouble on short rest, sometimes struggling as soon as the puck drops. As he gets closer and closer to solidifying his position as the team's #1 netminder, that shortcoming looms heavily on his promotion.
Daniel, if Jonas Hiller is the future of Anaheim goaltending, how important is it that he be able to handle back-to-back starts?
I think it's beyond imperative that Hiller be able to man the pipes on back to back nights. The Ducks have been struggling all year due to inconsistent offense and frequently bungling defense. I'm not trying to back out of previous arguments I've made about how our defense could have played better in front of our keepers and helped them out. But, sometimes a goalie needs to be the stabilizing force, just like the D should be there to bail him out when he's struggling. That's just the team concept. That's how you win over a long season. You have to be able to win the 5-4 games and the 2-1 games. And you need a goalie who can shoulder the responsibility of being stable on back to back nights. A goalie who can carry you through stretches and make sure your team steals its two points.
We are big advocates of magumbo, and sometimes the Hockey gods can be fickle. If changing the goalie alters the game even a little bit when you need every two points, then it might be considered a bad move. I expect my goalie to own the blue paint no matter what night it is.
Another concern I would have is that in a tight playoff race you might not want to rely on a rookie down the stretch. In the salary cap era, a team cannot afford to pay two guys market value. That means that, at some point, you have to rely on a cheap alternative. In our case that would probably be a rookie like Pogge or Pielmeier. If we are fighting for a division title or playoff positioning and the points are valuable, I don't think a rookie should be trusted with a game like that. In the end, a goalie needs to be able to handle the workload in an important stretch. There are too many back to back scenarios where it's important to win, and you need your goalie to show up every night. A number one goalie shows up every night.
I think it was Barry Melrose who said, when asked about the Avalanche goaltending last year, that 'you get what you pay for.' If you hire a bunch of sub-1M goalies, you'll get a bunch of sub-1M starts. Now, I don't know how much money Hiller is asking for right now, but if he's going to be the kind of goalie who NEEDS a backup, then he had better be ready to slide some of that money down the depth chart.
Last year, he cited his time with Davos as valuable experience in high stress level hockey. He didn't say it was the same, but he felt it worth noting as an experience that helped him deal with the pressures of the playoffs at the highest competition level of the sport. I wanted to say it then, and I'm gonna say it now. THIS AIN'T DAVOS!!! Forty-five starts will not cut it in the NHL!
I'm gonna read off some names: Marty Turco, Ryan Miller, Evgeny Nabokov, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur-- the list is longer, but do you know what they all have in common?
They've all posted a 73+ start season, Luongo and Brodeur with regularity. Hiller can't ask for 5M or even 4M if he's a 45 start guy. If he needs a legitimate 25-35 start backup that can go .500+ then we're not getting a 4M goaltender in Jonas Hiller. I know he's watched Jiggy (whose highest GP was 65) cash some easy checks on a big contract, but Allaire is gone now. The days of quality netminders knocking on the crease door are gone, probably for the entire duration of Hiller's next contract. We absolutely need a 65 start netminder, or we'll have to pay a real backup just to have a chance at the playoffs every year.
Now I know Hiller hasn't gotten much of a chance to acclimate to North American hockey, he only played a handful of games in the AHL and he can still learn to handle a long season. But sometimes, he looks shot out there, almost flu-ridden and he rarely bounces back. Yes, he's a dynamite netminder. He steals games. But he needs to be competent for at least 65 games a year in this league. I think he can. I think he's capable of dominating at the highest level of the sport, but then again, I feel the same way about Daisuke Matsuzaka.