Jonas Hiller isn't the best goaltender in Southern California. For all intents and purposes, that honor goes to Jonathan Quick. Hell, Hiller may not even be the best goaltender in the Ducks organization, but for right now, he is.
On Tuesday night in Anaheim, his club celebrated their franchise high 18-0-2 home record, Hiller was setting a record of his own - 12 straight wins. Said Bruce Boudreau of his goaltender's streak:
"What he showed was he kept us in the game, as he did last game in the first period. He’s 12-0 during this and it’s incredible goaltending when you think of the consistency. Usually, you can play a lot of good games in a row, and then have a clunker, but he hasn’t had a clunker. It’s a real testament to him."
With the exception of being named the third star for December, this just might be the quietest win-streak in the NHL. No one is mentioning him in the Vezina Trophy conversation even though 21 of the Ducks 32 wins total can be attributed to him. Perhaps, in a stats focused league, Hiller's overall numbers aren't ones to be considered of Vezina-caliber: 2.40 GAA and .912 SV%?
Hiller, 31, has earned over half his total wins (21-4-4) on this current streak. The funny thing is, like his season stats his numbers are just kind of 'meh' during the run. In 12 games, he has a 2.04 GAA and 0.916 SV%. He's not exactly 'carrying the wheel [Ducks]' but he's definitely still contributing.
What does this say about his future with the club then?
Ducks general manager Bob Murray is in a precarious position; one most GM's would love to be in. He has four quality goaltenders in Hiller, Viktor Fasth, Frederik Andersen and wunderkind John Gibson. Gibson is in his first full season in the AHL. He needs to incubate with the other Ducklings for a while longer before being NHL ready.
Of the three remaining goalies, Hiller's contract is the most expensive ($4.5-million both in cap-hit and salary) and the first one to expire at season's end.
The oft-injured Viktor Fasth is on the IR (again) with nagging groin issues that kept him out of parts of last season. Fasth poses a $2.9-million cap-hit (this season and next, one-way) for a 2-2-1 record (2.95 GAA, .885 SV%) and two stints on the IR: first time for 13 games and 20 games and counting for this run.
Currently backing up Hiller is the rookie Andersen. He has been a welcomed surprise for Ducks fans. He is 10-2-0 with a 2.07 GAA and 0.923 SV%. He has a two-year, one-way extension kicking in next season with a $1.15-million cap hit; at the end of it, he'll be an RFA. Win-win for Anaheim.
With the way the contracts are positioned and Gibson inching closer to the bigs, the conclusion is Hiller will be the odd-man out. It will take too much money to keep him. There is no sense in spending the cash when you have equal, if not better, options.
Hiller seems to know his time in Anaheim his coming to a close but does not let that get in the way of future earning potential. As he told NHL Live:
" ... Sometimes is tough when you kind of not knowing what's going on and where you're going to be in a year for now. But at the same time, I told myself if I play well, the more options I have to pick from where I want to play. I like Anaheim and I'd definitely like to stay, but if that's not going to be the case, the better I play and the more I play, the better chance I have to get a good deal somewhere else."
If Hiller is moved at the deadline or allowed to walk away at season's end, the reality is this: nostalgia aside, as long as the team keeps winning, Ducks fans don't care who is in net.
[s/t to Derek Bargaehr (@dbargaehr) for calculating 12 game GAA. Not easy to do.]
Follow Jen Neale on Twitter - @MsJenNeale_PD