Ducks' Hiller wants to bounce back in Game 5
Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller has been one of the biggest surprises in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
In his first post-season run, the 27-year-old leads all goaltenders in save percentage (.946) and has stopped 386 shots on goal.
To compare, Carolina's Cam Ward sits second in playoff saves with 324, which is a whopping 62 fewer than Hiller's total — and Ward has played an extra game to boot.
All things considered, you'd figure that Hiller was due for a rough night sooner or later.
Well, he definitely got one on Thursday. Detroit fired five goals past Hiller before he was yanked in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal, a 6-3 Red Wing victory which squared the series 2-2.
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Franzen top playoff performer
For all the superstar talent that envelops their dressing room, when it comes playoff time, one Detroit Red Wing stands above the crowd:
Right-winger Johan Franzen.
The man they call "The Mule" turns into a thoroughbred during the post-season, and he's a big reason why the Wings find themselves deadlocked 2-2 with the Anaheim Ducks in their Western Conference semifinal series heading into Game 5 Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.
Franzen scored twice in Detroit's 6-3 Game 4 victory, adding another chapter to his growing Stanley Cup legacy.
He has four goals with two assists in this series, and is fourth in playoff scoring with 12 points.
Eight of his 23 Stanley Cup goals have been game-winners and he's scored 19 in his last 24 playoff games.
"He gets into a zone when the playoffs come around," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "He's been scoring some real big goals. When we really need a goal, he's scoring a lot of goals, he's sort of our go-to guy in pressure situations."
Teammate Dan Cleary took the Franzen praise one step further. "He's got to be one of the best five forwards right now in the world," Cleary said.
Now it's time to see what he's made of. How Hiller responds on the road in Game 5 on Sunday, after his worst performance of the playoffs, will go a long way towards cementing (or unravelling) his reputation as a bona fide No. 1 NHL goalie.
That is, if he's even playing.
"You guys better come to the warm-up to see who's going to start," Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters after Game 4.
Granted, Carlyle doesn't think it is the media's business to know who will start in net for Anaheim on any given night, so it might be a smokescreen from the wily bench boss.
Didn't deny switch
But Carlyle didn't outright deny the possibility that 2007 Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Award-winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere would get the nod over Hiller.
"Giguere has been working diligently, and we felt it would be best to give him an opportunity to sharpen and hone in playoff-type action [during Game 4] with it being a three-goal [Detroit] lead," he said.
For the Red Wings' part, they're not biting.
"Oh, he'll be back," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, referring to Hiller. "[He] has been fantastic."
Assuming that Hiller gets the start, which is most likely the case, he might benefit from tighter play in the Ducks' defensive zone.
Eighth-ranked Anaheim has been outshot in all 10 of its post-season games, and is averaging 41.5 shots against per game, which is last among playoff teams.
It would be a perfect time for the Ducks to clamp down, with Red Wings sniper Marian Hossa starting to break out and Johan (Mule) Franzen continuing the clutch post-season play he's now famous for.
"It definitely feels good when you can finally put a puck in the net," Hossa, who had two goals in Game 5, said. "We had some great chances and played some good games, but the puck didn't go in. We tried to stay patient."
Hossa, who led second-seeded Detroit in goals during the regular season with 40, now has four during the playoffs.
Franzen also had two goals and added an assist in the win. The Mule leads the Red Wings in all playoff point categories heading into Sunday's contest.
"It seems like he is one of the best right now when he is around the net," Hossa said of Franzen. "He has got a great touch right around the crease."
With files from The Associated Press