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Stability in net: Jonas Hiller paying massive dividends for the Flames

Signing Hiller was, quite possibly, the best move the Flames made in the off-season.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames would not be where they are without Jonas Hiller. They wouldn't even be close. They probably wouldn't have made the playoffs without him, and even if they had, they probably wouldn't be performing this well.

Case in point: look at Game 4. The Flames capitalized off of some very sloppy and borderline goonish Vancouver Canucks play, taking advantage of being up a man on the powerplay to take the lead. One insurance goal shortly after, and that was all they really needed.

Until the Canucks, finally realizing just how dangerous a situation they were putting themselves into, woke up, and absolutely dominated the third period.

The Flames held off their onslaught.

Because of Hiller.

Just look at how forcefully he grabs that puck. He's forced to track it, shifting position as the Canucks change the situation, before he makes a pad save, and then a glove save. The force with which he grabbed the puck on that second save has him turning, and it looks like he's angrily showing off the puck to Daniel Sedin, almost as though he's telling him to cut it out, because he isn't going to get scored on again.

And he wasn't.

While the Flames' skaters were busy napping through parts of the game's end, Hiller stayed awake, alert, and strong, refusing to bend or break.

It's been that way all series; even during the start of that disastrous game two, in which he did his absolute damnedest to keep control of the puck until he just couldn't anymore and the Canucks capitalized.

It's also the sort of thing he's done since he became a Flame. Remember: it was in just his third start for Calgary he made 49 saves against the Chicago Blackhawks, essentially singlehandedly stealing an overtime win in a game his team had absolutely no business being in.

That was pretty much the symbolic shifting of the guard: from Reto Berra's inexperience and inconsistency to Hiller's veteran savvy and high level performance.

Before, it was an awkward mixture of mediocre goalies. With Hiller brought in, it became a great tandem between him and Karri Ramo, with both netminders pushing one another to always do better. Hiller made Ramo better, and Ramo kept Hiller on his toes, particularly as the season wore on.

Hiller may be better known for his cool gear, or vertigo, or his unceremonious ousting from the Anaheim Ducks in last season's playoffs. But with the Flames, his default trait is his ability to remain cool and collected through games, making the big saves and occasionally stealing one, and almost never getting flustered. Hiller was rarely pulled. Hiller was almost always good to go after giving up a bad goal.

It was something the Flames missed when Miikka Kiprusoff retired.

A new, established starting goalie was exactly what this rebuilding team needed. The pickings for free agent goalies in 2014 were slim: mostly backups and Ryan Miller. The Flames chose Hiller, the younger and cheaper of the two, extending him on his still-current $4.5 million, but for just two seasons. This gave them both stability and flexibility in net: stability as long as Hiller is around and prospects like Joni Ortio and Jon Gillies not yet ready, but flexibility in that they aren't stuck with a bloated goalie contract in the event one of the kids steps up.

Hiller's old team no longer deemed him a starter. The Flames disagreed. And Hiller, with his 44 games started, 52 played, and .918 save percentage - .927 at even strength - led the Flames to the playoffs, and has continued leading in the post-season. When the Flames, as a young, inexperienced, and honestly not-super-amazing team falter, as such teams tend to do, their starting goalie is there to pick up the slack.

It's pretty easy to feel confident with Jonas Hiller manning the pipes. He's been doing it all year, and he's continuing to do it when it matters most.