1. Jonas Hiller is going to get a lot of focus this series, but what about Anaheim's current goaltending? How's life after Hiller, and where do Frederik Andersen and John Gibson rank?
Life after Hiller, kind of started before he even left. It was pretty awkward last season toward the end.
But I guess this question is really about Andersen and Gibson…. If you ask most Ducks fans, Andersen is and has been the clear number one all season, but that hasn’t necessarily always been the case if you were to ask Bruce Boudreau. The idea at the beginning of the season was to go with them as a 1A/1B situation, and there was some uproar about Gibson not being ready. There was even more uproar when he started Game 1 of the season (because it was in his hometown of Pittsburgh) and gave up six goals. Then Andersen came in and played so well for the rest of October that they had to send Gibson down to get some playing time.
The quasi-goalie controversy at the end of the season was really created out of three things: 1) Bruce’s history of screwing around with his goalies going into the playoffs, 2) Andersen recovering from a concussion sustained in February when the net hit him in the back of the head and 3) Bruce’s refusal to admit that Freddy was the number one, as he had been for the vast majority of the season. That all ended though, when Gibson got hurt just before the regular season finale and Andersen was the only choice to start the playoffs, even though he probably would have started anyway.
Andersen was good in the first round against Winnipeg, putting up a .924 save percentage, winning all four games and making a couple of insanely huge stops at the end of games (particularly to send Game 3 to overtime), so he’ll definitely start tonight. However, Gibson is healthy again and I would not be surprised to see him in this series if Andersen lets in a soft goal or two, or even just to shake things up.
Wow, that was a long way of saying Andersen is the clear number one but Gibson is trusted as well.
2. Anyway, back to Hiller. Considering how he left Anaheim, what do you expect from him? What impact will he have in this series?
Hiller has always been the kind of guy who could stand on his head and steal a game, or give up an insanely soft goal (sometimes within the same game). I expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder, and for good reason. It did not end well here in Anaheim.
We all knew that for salary reasons there was no way that he would be back with the Ducks at the start of this year, plus he was pretty terrible down the stretch last season. It only got weirder in the playoffs when he was in and out of the lineup due to Andersen struggling/getting hurt, then abandoned for Gibson (who had only played three NHL games to that point) and showed up sans playoff beard to back the kid up, then still had to come in and finish a disastrous Game 7 that was already way out of reach.
Having said that, the chip on his shoulder could go either way. He has had a tendency to try and do too much at times (especially handling the puck) and that could manifest itself here. So, it really still is a matter of which Hiller shows up. Of course he’ll have a great impact on the series, as any starting goalie would, but I expect him to play well, give up a couple of five hole goals that he would want back and make some massively over dramatic glove saves.
3. The Ducks-Jets series was incredibly physical, with something like eight billion hits recorded. Bruce Boudreau is apparently not expecting as physical a series in round two. Assuming he's correct, how do you expect the Ducks to play the Flames? What changes, if anything?
I’m not sure that he is right on that front. The Vancouver/Calgary series seemed pretty physical and nasty as well (especially early on). I do understand where he’s coming from though, in that the Flames seem to rely more on smaller, speedier, skill guys to run the show. The Ducks were better in possession against Winnipeg than most anyone thought they would be, even winning the possession battles in the first two games. That’s one big difference here, the Ducks are now expected to be the ones carrying the play in the Calgary zone for most of the game and have to be wary of the counter attack.
The most obvious difference will probably be with the lineup. Game 1 will probably not be much of a shake-up, because why change after having won four games straight? The only exception probably being Nate Thompson returning from injury to center the fourth line, though that doesn’t necessarily address the speed issue. At some point I would expect to see Tim Jackman or Emerson Etem come out, in favor of Jiri Sekac and (hopefully) James Wisniewski in for Clayton Stoner.
4. Who has had the biggest impact in fixing the Ducks' possession stats in the second half of the season? Has it translated over in the playoffs? Who has been the biggest surprise in this area?
I’m going to defer to the opinion of our resident statistician, Kid Ish, on this one and say Simon Despres. He’s helped, not only by being a good possession player in his own right, but also by replacing Ben Lovejoy who was riding the coattails of Cam Fowler, more or less, this season.
It definitely has carried over into the playoffs. The Ducks were fourth of the 16 teams in Round 1 in 5v5 shot attempt percentage (CF%) with 53.2% and second only to Chicago (53.3%) among the remaining eight teams. Hampus Lindholm and Francois Beauchemin had a magnificent series, possession wise, starting tons of shifts in the D-Zone but turning it into beautifully high shot attempt numbers, with the most ice time on the team. That’s not really surprising though, because Hampus is freakin’ amazing and only getting better.
The biggest possession surprise for me (even going back to last season) has been Tim Jackman. He’s not a possession rock star or anything and he definitely gets some favorable zone starts, but you can usually count on him to use his size to hold the puck deep in the opposition zone and keep the attempts against down. To the point about playoff possession this year, he didn’t get a ton of ice time against Winnipeg, but ended up with a 5v5 SAT%(CF%) of 54.24.
5. Considering how both the Flames and Ducks seem to operate, how huge are third periods going to be? What about comebacks? Are teams going to be actively trying to be down going into the third?? But seriously: just how have the Ducks been doing it, and how does it play into their mentality/identity?
HA! I actually considered asking you this same question, but decided against it because it is basically unanswerable. So thanks, but my best explanation is basically score effects. I couldn’t really tell you how much of it has to do with the opposition dropping back, and how much is on the Ducks turning up the pressure, but I have to imagine since the Ducks did it so consistently over the course of the season, it has something to do with them. They won a league leading 12 games when trailing after the second period this year, and three more in the first round, not to mention setting the NHL record for most wins in one-goal games (33-1-7).
It definitely plays into their mentality, in that as long as they’re within a goal or two it’s never over. We just keep repeating to ourselves that they can’t keep going on like this, but they do, something I’m sure you guys are familiar with this year. So, just expect everything to come down to the wire. It should be fun… nerve wracking... but fun.
Thanks, Chris! I remember loving Tim Jackman back in the day; he inexplicably scored 10 goals for the Flames in a single season that one time! And I'm sure it's going to be a hell of a heart attack-inducing series. Be sure to check out our answers to Anaheim Calling's questions as well. Here's to a healthy, physical, not-totally-stress-inducing series!