A hot goalkeeper usually can be found at the centre of any surging NHL team and Jonas Hiller, and the Anaheim Ducks, are not exceptions to the rule.
Ahead of their game last night, the Ducks had become only the seventh NHL team to win 16 of 17 games. Thirteen of the victories, without defeat, came with the Swiss goalie in the nets, a streak achieved by only eight goalies in NHL history, led by Gilles Gilbert’s 17-victory run for the Boston Bruins in 1974/75.
Hiller has not lost since December 6, but he is not particularly impressed.
“You can play as well as you want, but if the guys in front of you are not on the same page, it’s not going to work out,” Hiller told the Los Angeles Times. “Having that success as a team is what makes these kinds of stretches the most fun.”
Certainly, the Ducks do not lack for talent. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are elite scorers, the winger Teemu Selanne is still formidable, at age 43, in his 23rd season; and Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm are fine young blue-liners.
The Ducks have the best record in the league and their 73 points are five better than the second-best club, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Hiller’s professional career began in his native Switzerland and the Ducks signed him as a free agent after they won the 2007 Stanley Cup. He was the No 2 to Jean-Sebastian Giguere, but by late 2009 he had taken the French-Canadian’s job.
He helped Switzerland finish eighth at the 2010 Olympics and was one of the league’s elite goalies at the midpoint of the 2010/11 season. Hiller was then struck on the mask by two shots during the all-star game and soon after was sidelined by what was described as “vertigo-like” symptoms. He missed the final month of the season and had a rocky 2011/12 campaign.
This is his second successive strong season, which comes at a good time for a man whose four-year, US$18 million (Dh66.1m) contract is up this summer.
He said he is not thinking about the winning streak.
“You always want to win,” he said, “but I’m thinking more like, ‘When is it going to end?’ But you want to make sure it’s not going to end the next game.”
Hiller, who will go to the Sochi Olympics next month, probably knows his save percentage this season is a fairly pedestrian 91.2, below his career mark of 91.7. His goals-allowed number, 2.42, is near his career norm. He is, however, giving up only 2.16 per game during his winning streak.
“On the ice, it’s just about stopping pucks and playing well,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about all that stuff, and stats, out there.”
Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE