Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending consultant Francois Allaire certainly has gone through a range of emotions in the past week or so.
One of his students, James Reimer, provided the Maple Leafs with some standout netminding last week. Jonas Gustavsson, however, was porous in Toronto's 7-0 loss on Wednesday. But then Maple Leafs No. 1 goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere turned the team's fortunes with a solid effort in Toronto's 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
The Maple Leafs beat another Allaire protege in Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller. Not many teams have been able to beat the Swiss native this season and his strong play has earned him a spot in next week's NHL all-star game in Raleigh, N.C.
But while Allaire helped Hiller form his butterfly technique early in his career, his game has further developed under Anaheim's current goalie guru, Peter Peters.
The biggest area of improvement has seen Hiller become more active in playing pucks. The Ducks no longer have Scott Niedermayer or Chris Pronger on their blue-line, so Hiller was asked to help the cause.
He also has been better in steering pucks into the corner, a trait not evident in some butterfly goalies.
"It's a total different style, a total different personality," said Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, when asked about the difference between Peters and Allaire. "One thing about Pete Peters is that he hasn't tried to change [Hiller's] style. Are there areas he can improve on? For sure. He's no different from anybody else.
"The biggest change for Jonas, from a coaching standpoint, has been [that] we have asked him to be more active as far as playing pucks and getting out and stopping pucks and setting it up. We don't expect him to be Ron Hextall or Marty Brodeur, but we do expect him to push the puck from one side to another. When he does that, he seems to be more into the hockey game."
Allaire refused to be interviewed about Hiller on Thursday morning. But he has seen the man in the black mask transform into one of the game's top goalies this season. He's first in starts with 42, tied for first in wins at 23, fourth in save percentage at .927 and 11th in goals against at 2.45.
The 28-year-old Hiller definitely deserves to be mentioned as a strong candidate to win the Vezina Trophy at this point in the season.
"His stats provide ammunition to support that," Carlyle said. "He has done very well for our hockey club. Our goaltending has been one of the strengths of our hockey club. But any team that is having success has to have good goaltending. He doesn't have to win games for you, he just has to give you a chance every night and he's done that.
"You're always happy when your goalie comes in and has success. But as I always tell them, that's what they're supposed to do — stop the puck, just stop it."
Hiller gained confidence in his game at the Olympics a year ago. He arrived in Vancouver after inking a four-year extension worth $4.5-million US a season that made Giguere expendable to the Maple Leafs a few days later.
Hiller made 44 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to Canada and a few nights later stopped another 42 shots in a 2-0 loss to the United States. One the U.S. goals was an empty netter.
"It was just another good experience," Hiller said. "On a perfect day the Swiss can beat anybody. It's too bad it didn't work out, but the whole thing was a good experience and it definitely helped me get some more money in the bank.
"I want to be one of the best goalies in the league. I'm not just satisfied with just coming over here and winning some games. I have had a chance to play a lot and right now I'm playing well and have been very consistent. If I keep going the same way I've been playing I hope people consider me one of the best goalies."
Hiller remains close to Allaire. The student still attends Allaire's hockey school every summer in Switzerland and the two exchange emails.
"He's a great guy and he definitely has helped me a lot. We talk less about hockey and more about personal stuff."
Gigeure beat his ex-mates
Giguere becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and whether he will be asked to waive his no-trade next month to be moved to a contender or sign an extension with the Maple Leafs depends on how well he can play in the next little while.
He was steady with 26 saves against his old club.
"It’s always fun to play your old team," Giguere said. "I was a little nervous, but I wanted to get this one for me personally and for the team."
Grabovski, McCarther pile up points
Mikhail Grabovski scored two third-period goals to bring his season total to a club-high 20, which also matches his career-high of two years ago. Clarke McCarther enjoyed a one-goal, two-assist game to hit the 40-point mark.
The Maple Leafs were tied 1-1 after the first period and held a 3-2 advantage following 40 minutes. They outshot Anaheim 37-28. This, of course, was a solid bounce-back effort after being embarrassed by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on the previous night.
Tyler Bozak also had a strong game. He scored the game-winner late in the second period and now has eight points in his past 11 games. Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was impressed with captain Dion Phaneuf. Wilson remarked that it was Phaneuf’s best game in a month because he played "ornery."
Toronto enforcer Colton Orr left the game after he fell face first on the ice while engaged in a fight with Anaheim tough guy George Parros early in the game.