Friday, May 8, 2009

The Jig Is Up?

It's hard to be critical of Jonas Hiller, who has had a pretty impressive playoffs so far, but the Wings got to him in Game 4. They lit the lamp 5 times with Hiller between the pipes, and let's face it, some of the goals were pretty soft. Hiller has made his fair share of amazing stops, but some of the pucks that have slipped past him in this series have been very stoppable. I know we disagreed on the backhander that slipped through the pads in Game 3, but Hiller had 2 go right through the arm and the body, which is exactly what a butterfly goalie isn't supposed to give up. So let me ask you, Arthur, is Hiller slipping and is it time to let a Conn Smythe Trophy winner find his way to the Anaheim crease?

First, on Samuelsson's backhander in Game 3, my issue was with the declaration that that was "not a quality chance." You have to put a stick on Samuelsson and pressure the shot out of him. You can't let him streak past you diagonally, free to shoot it whenever he wants. Hiller guessed high, and any quality backhanded chance would've been high. Yes, he should've had it, but I was saying we never should have given it up.

Is he slipping? Maybe. I can tell you he didn't look sharp in the skate around. The second goal was unstoppable, but the others were all ones he should've had. Detroit got better chances this game; Hossa benefitted from playing on a different line. But by the time Hiller let that fifth goal past him, you could see the kid just didn't have it tonight.

I think he's allowed a bad game, though. In 2003, Jiggy had a phenomenal series against Detroit, opened the series well against Dallas, had a game where he had to be pulled and then closed in record-setting fashion against the Stars and Wild. I'm not saying that Hiller is destined for that same performance, but when you ask a goaltender to bear the brunt of upsetting the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the West, you have to allow him a bad game. And Allaire prepared Jiggy to bounce back in the Dallas series, just as I'm sure he's prepared Jonas.

I know a lot of people want Jiggy to ride into the crease and save the day, and I'm sure it's crossed Carlyle's mind. I just don't see that happening, though. This isn't like 2006. Jiggy lost this job in March, not in the middle of a playoff series. Carlyle owes Hillsy Sunday's start. He's the starter, and he hasn't imploded just yet.

I think we can both agree that Hiller didn't have it tonight. I don't know who he prays to, but the hockey gods were not listening. I also agree that the problem tonight was the quality chances that Detroit seemed to conjure at will. It's hard to talk about what went right for Anaheim in this game, defensively, because nothing really did. The goals Hiller gave up had one thing in common: they came from in between the circles. Hiller has done some amazing things in the playoffs, but if a goalie faces 5 or 6 quality chances between the circles . . .

I do think that Hiller has wrestled the starting job away from Jiggy, and it's going to be tough not to do something to change momentum. We got thoroughly handled in Game 4. The fact is though, if he can't rebound and play amazing in Game 5, maybe he'll never be the playoff goalie that a championship team needs. Every goalie is going to have a night like this in the playoffs. Luongo got lit up for 6 in game 2 of the Chicago/Vancouver series, and came back really strong. If Hiller does rebound, the Wings are going to have themselves an awful night sunday. If he doesn't, maybe Jiggy can save the series. I do know that Hiller needs to shake this one off, and be the same guy who had the Sharks shaking their heads in Round One.

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