The first question Ducks coach Randy Carlyle fielded Monday was about his starter in goal for Wednesday’s Game 1 with the Nashville Predators at Honda Center. Carlyle, as one would expect, was non-committal in his answer.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he said. “It could be any of the three of them.”
The three are Dan Ellis, who has started the last two games and won the NHL’s Third Star for his .964 save percentage and 1.21 goals against average in his last three games, Ray Emery – who was on fire before suffered a lower-body injury against San Jose April 6 – and Jonas Hiller, who was an All-Star but has only played twice since Feb. 2 due to a head injury.
Emery and Hiller are working their way back into playing shape from injuries, with Emery having a lower-body injury and Hiller still suffering effects from the head injury he suffered in late January. Carlyle is happy with his options though.
“With Dan Ellis, look at his record since we’ve gotten him,” Carlyle said. “It’s been quite an amazing story and it wasn’t for Ray Emery winning six in a row Dan Ellis would have played (all of the games down the stretch). You have to go with the hot hand.
“(Hiller) seems to be improved. If the option is needed or necessary I would go to Jonas Hiller and it makes the decision more difficult as we go deeper in the playoffs.”
The unsettled goaltending situation is hardly new to Carlyle. In 2006, he made the call to go with the hot young goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, over the battle-tested Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a call that got the then-No. 6 seeded Ducks to the Western Conference finals. Giguere retook the net the next season, leading the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup championship.
“It’s not quite the same because back then we had a veteran in Giguere and a Conn Smythe winner that had a young guy in Bryz take the net from him,” Carlyle said. “It’s not the same situation this time around.
“Those decisions are tough ones and you are always going to hurt someone’s feelings and someone’s pride initially. But if the individual realizes that its nothing personal and can get past that, everything works out fine.”