Remember just two weeks ago, when a few people out there (though they were in the minority) were actually suggesting that Jean-Sebastien Giguere should be the Ducks’ starting goalie to start the playoffs?
These days they are a mighty quiet bunch, watching Jonas Hiller ascend the NHL leaderboard. His 1.64 goals-against average ranks second among all playoff goaltenders, his .957 save percentage is third, his two shutouts are tied for first and, most importantly, his four victories have the Ducks heading to the second round.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle rarely goes out of his way to praise a goaltender, but said after the win that “our goaltender made an impression in the first two games, and we just built on that.”
Sharks coach Todd McLellan agreed.
“In my opinion, if you picked the star of the series, Hiller would be the star,” he said.
Prior to the sixth playoff start of his career, the 27-year-old from Switzerland commented that seeing more shots — the Ducks were outshot in every game of the series — merely helped him get warm. Maybe that helped him glove his share of seeing-eye slapshots in Game 6, possibly his most impressive win of the four. Along the way, he had to absorb a whack across the back from the stick of Jeremy Roenick, long after a whistle had blown late in the second period. (No penalty was called.)
No hard feelings, though — the two shook hands and chatted after the game.
“He just (said), ‘Congratulations, awesome job, keep going.’ It’s a great honor to hear something like that from a guy with so much experience, so many years in the league.”
Hiller’s experience in the Swiss Elite League, and in the 2007 IIHF World Championships, clearly counted for more than many observers gave him credit for. Now it’s not so much about disproving his critics as it is about taking the Ducks farther in the playoffs, beginning this weekend against the Detroit Red Wings.
“Regular season, playoffs, it doesn’t matter what league you’re in,” he said. “We believed we could (win), even against that team, with such success in the regular season. It’s a great feeling.
“I’ve got to keep going. There’s plenty of steps yet left to take.”