Despite going 3-1-1 in his first five games, after Friday night’s loss to Dallas (he only played 20 minutes before leaving with a tweaked groin), Jonas Hiller had just a 3.69 goals-against average and .872 save percentage.
Of the 20 goals Hiller had allowed, 11 of them came on the power play (33 saves on 44 shots, a .750 SV%). That’s a significant amount, so it’s only fair to say that part of his weak stats stem from the Ducks taking so many penalties.
At even strength, he has stopped 100 of 109 total shots, which is a respectable .917 SV%.
Photo Copyright: Tom Turk – Piratical Photography
So maybe Hiller isn’t playing as bad as the stats lead us to believe, but he’s clearly still shaking off the rust from the lockout.
After watching Hiller’s first two games, I noticed most of the goals he allowed were to the blocker side. So over the weekend, in order to better understand exactly what was killing Hiller, I broke down video of all 20 goals he has allowed.
I also briefly discussed this with goalie coach Sean Murray from Pro-Formance Goalie Schools. As the goalie coach for the Vancouver Giants, I’ve come to really trust his insights over the past two years. His tweets are very informative, he trains a number of high-profile prospects, and I know he also noticed Hiller’s blocker side issues in a game against the Canucks earlier this season.
“Hiller’s blocker stays in a locked position outside of the pad, which causes his shoulder to rise,” Murray said. “When he butterflys, it pulls away from the puck, creating a constant hole between the head and elbow. This causes him to lose track of the puck as the head pulls away from the shot.”
I’ve seen this from Hiller many times in the past, but whether it’s bad luck or it’s truly a weakness teams are exploiting, so far this season, the blocker-side issue is easy to see.
“This also hurts Hiller with his movements on quick shots over the pad, as the blocker is very difficult in this stance to get in front of the pad in order to eliminate goals,” Murray added. “He needs to work on getting his weight more to the front of his skates, then raise his quads and drop his head and shoulders in front of his pads. This will get him to better utilize his great upper body size, and it will activate the elbows and the rest of his upper body movements.”
Those are some really in-depth details from Murray, but if you break down the video, you get the idea.
I do wonder if Hiller being a southpaw exaggerates the problem. Most opponents are probably inclined to shoot glove side on a goalie, so by sheer coincidence they may be taking advantage of his weakness unintentionally.
Ultimately, whether his odd blocker arm mechanics is the source of his struggles, or it’s a combination of rust and undisciplined defense, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. At the end of the day, he knows he needs to be better, and maybe the minor lower-body injury is the chance he needs to mentally reset and regain his confidence.
*Keep in mind that not every goal on Hiller was broken down to the extreme. There are some goals where Hiller has issues with depth, save selections, and overall angle play and positioning, but for the sake of timeliness, I’m only focusing on his blocker side.
9:53 — Hiller is beat blocker side on a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle by Hamhuis. Jonas is just slightly trailing the play when Hansen swings the puck behind the center of the net. But he quickly recovers back to his skates as the pass is floated up to Hamhuis, and then he does a good job to push off his post and attack the shot. Unfortunately, major traffic by Lapierre and Getzlaf is taking away Hiller’s eyes, and the one-timer doesn’t allow him enough time to adjust his body enough to get a piece of the shot.
This goal initiates Hiller’s blocker side issues this season.
11:23 — On this PP goal by Daniel Sedin, Hiller made the initial save on a shot from the point, but Hansen battled hard for effective positioning. Hiller couldn’t absorb the original shot, so he was forced to scramble. He shifted his entire body to his left and spread out while dropping the blocker down to the ice. Lydman picked up Hansen, but he may have caused Hiller to lose sight of the puck at the wrong time. Nobody picked up Sedin, so say goodnight.
Going paddle down to eliminate the ice directly in front of his pads was a good move, but the silky hands of Sedin flipped the loose puck to the far side before Hiller could get a piece of it. That’s the first of many PP goals Hiller has allowed this season, but it wasn’t a blocker side fail.
9:27 — Hiller was beaten blocker side on this “seeing-eye” shot off the post by Edler in the third period (PP). Jonas does stand tall in an attempt to reach out and see over bodies, and he also pushed off Beauchemin to create some space so he could improve his line of sight. But count those bodies — five guys were stacked up in between the hash marks. So while Hiller tried to look over the right shoulder of Beauchemin and a Canucks player, Edler smartly shot to the inside of all the traffic.
That forced Hiller to try and re-connect his eyes to the puck, but clearly it was way too late.
It’s almost like Hiller knew it was coming, too. His body drifted back and to the left after he pushed off Beauchemin, but you can’t track a puck with so many bodies in the way, you have to sense it. That may explain the negative body language, as it’s a situation where he knew what was happening, but couldn’t stop it in time. If you can’t track releases, you can’t make last-second reaction saves, so Hiller could only drop, drift, and hope.
This is by no means a weak goal, but that made two of three goals allowed on the blocker side. Hiller finished this game with 26 saves on 29 shots for the win.
16:54 — This PP goal by Curtis Glencross was somewhat similar to Edler’s goal. A shot from inside the blue line through traffic caught Hiller drifting the wrong way due to a sick re-direction. Glencross forced Hiller to look over the right shoulder, while Winnik put his body directly in front of the puck and the blade of the shooter’s stick, making it even tougher for Hiller to read the shot release. Hiller committed to dropping and blocking a shot heading to the right of Glencross, but the re-direct came across the body and beat him blocker side.
Hiller did the right thing by slightly drifting up and to the right to push into the shot. So again, this was clearly not a weak goal allowed by Hiller, but it did beat him blocker side, and that’s now three out of four. This was also the third PP goal he had allowed.
19:34 — Hiller was once again beaten blocker side on this goal by Tanguay. A broken play in the slot makes this a tough puck to track, and when Tanguay dropped the puck from his glove, he improved his angle, then wristed it home. The screen shot below shows how much traffic Hiller had to deal with when the puck finally came off Tanguay’s stick — Sbisa, Iginla, and Getzlaf were taking away his ability to track the puck.
Once again, negative body language was a sign to me that he just picked up the shot late.
That’s now four of five goals allowed that beat Hiller blocker side, and three of five goals on the PP. While it’s clearly an early trend, he has dealt with tons of traffic so far, so you can’t fault him for picking up some of these shots late.
By this point, it may start to be gnawing on his mind, and causing him to over-think things.
1:13 — On this PP goal to the blocker side, it’s easy to see that Iginla was like a swinging gate slapping Hiller in the face, and Glencross once again got a piece of a shot. When Cammalleri let the shot go, there were also three players stacked on top of Hiller’s line of sight.
It’s obvious that Hiller didn’t get a clear read at the release. But this time, his instincts and anticipation was accurate, as he pushed to his left to try and make a body save. It was a moment too late though, and the puck snuck under the blocker due to Glencross’ tip.
Now things are just getting weird. That’s five of six goals against beating him blocker side, and four of six on the PP.
Get this poor man some help in front of the net, or get him some x-ray goggles. Otherwise, can you really fault Hiller for most of these goals? It’s already tough enough to come out of the lockout without any rust.
14:04 — This breakaway goal by Lee Stempniak in the third period was very straightforward. Stempniak got a beat on a sick two-line pass, had plenty of time to pick his spot, and beat Hiller with a quick release — you got it — blocker side. You can see Hiller’s elbow was pulled away from his body, and it just barely moved forward before it collapsed and locked to his hip.
Credit Stempniak for having his head up and recognizing the hole, and making his opportunity count.
That made six of Hiller’s first seven goals beating him to the blocker side, and four of seven coming on the PP. For Hiller, things were probably going from weird to flat out frustrating.
9:13 — This PP goal by Daniel Sedin was the result of a gorgeous pass from his brother Henrik. The only thing I could possibly fault Hiller for here was not getting a piece of the cross-crease pass with his stick, as it went through the blue paint. Break it down and it’s amazing to see how the puck just barely snuck under Beauchemin’s right leg, then under Hiller’s stick. Pause the replay right where the puck went through the crease and you can see Hiller’s “locked” blocker elbow.
I can’t fault Hiller for this goal, but it was blocker side. So that’s seven out of eight blocker side, and five of eight on the PP. Now things are getting creepy.
18:40 — This PP goal by Raymond was the result of a defensive breakdown by Sbisa, but in my opinion, Hiller was slightly trailing the play and didn’t give himself a chance to anticipate the back-door pass. When Burrows broke free of Sbisa, Hiller took too long to recognize the situation. To me, he didn’t establish a set stance early enough, so he was forced to lunge across, as opposed to planting his right skate and getting a good push to drive across.
Like many goals in the NHL, these situations are a race against time for a goalie, and in this race, Hiller lost. If he read the play and got set even a half-second sooner, he could’ve used his anticipation skills to plant, rotate, and push across in time, and maybe instead of having to lunge forward and fall on his stomach, he can push through with his back straight and possibly get a piece of the shot.
Yes, this was another goal to the blocker side (eight out of nine), and another PP goal (six of nine).
16:37 — Aaron Volpatti’s goal in the second period was another bad defensive error, but it didn’t beat Hiller blocker side, nor was it on the power play, so let’s move on (8-of-10, 6-of-10).
1:18 — This PP goal by Kassian was ugly on all accounts. By this point, I don’t think Hiller has any confidence at all on the PK, he’s sluggish and sloppy and not tracking well. He doesn’t even attempt to lift his blocker off the ice on this one, and just appears to belly flop and hope the shot is low. I guess there’s a pad-reach attempt in there, but yeah, this isn’t even worth breaking down, it’s just too ugly.
Make that 9-of-11 on the blocker side, and 7-of-11 on the PP.
15:01 — Raymond’s goal in the third period is easily the weakest Hiller has allowed so far. No excuses on this one. His feet aren’t set upon the release, he’s trailing the play again, and by this point, he probably has a mental block on anything shot to the blocker side. Everything Murray explains earlier is clear-cut here, so it’s a trend that has become an issue that has become the main plague of his early-season struggles.
That’s an insane 10-of-12 goals against to the blocker side, and 7-of-12 on the PP. Put this ugly game to rest, as he stopped just 29 of 34 shots in the 5-0 loss.
With three full days off between games for Hiller to push the mental reset button, let’s see how things pan out for him in his fourth game of the season.
9:46 — Joe Pavelski’s goal in the first period was a great shot that beat Hiller clean to the blocker side. On this play, I feel like Hiller had great depth, his feet were set as the shot was released, he wasn’t trailing the play, and he was square. He just plain and simply got beat by a perfect shot.
I like the fact Hiller didn’t sulk with negative body language after this goal, a sign that led me to believe he knew it was a great shot, and he knew he was in position, but just missed. And yep…the trend has now reached full-blown insanity. We’re talking 11-of-13 goals to the blocker side, and 7-of-13 on the PP.
17:15 — Logan Couture’s game-tying goal with under three minutes left was another weak one on Hiller, but this one squeaked under the glove. There was some traffic to deal with, but it was stoppable for a goalie that likes to condense and make blocking saves. This goal did not come on the PP, so that’s 11-of-14 blocker side, 7-of-14 on the PP.
The Ducks lost in a shootout and the only goal scored on Hiller was a shot by Handzus that beat him over the glove-side shoulder. He suffered the OT loss, stopping 16 of 18 shots.
9:15 — Dustin Brown’s PP goal in the first period was the result of a pretty passing play, and he had a wide open net to fire one glove side. He made no mistake to cut the score to 2-1 Ducks.
9:49 — Stoll’s goal 34 seconds later appears to sneak under the glove hand or possibly five-hole, but after breaking down the video, it’s really tough to tell. It definitely doesn’t beat him blocker side though. That means we’re sitting at 11-of-16 goals to the blocker side, and 8-of-16 on the PP.
1:15 — Brown’s PP goal early in the second period stemmed from another defensive breakdown. Brown had all the time in the world to set up right on top of Hiller, who didn’t do much to push off and create space. A bit complacent due in part to the fact he wasn’t playing with a lot of confidence, Hiller did make a great save on the initial shot, but couldn’t stretch out the left skate in time to get a piece of the put-back.
I’ll give Hiller the benefit of the doubt on this one. The shot was along the ice, and he was stretching to get a skate on it, so we won’t count it as actually getting beat blocker side. That’s 11-of-17 blocker side, and 9-of-17 on the PP.
14:12 — There’s no benefit of the doubt for Hiller on this goal by Williams in the second period. This goal presents an interesting scoring situation we’re seeing a fair amount of right now, as goalies are unable to lean their shoulder into the post and seal off the upper portion of the net. If you notice on the replay, Hiller’s left skate is attached to the post, which creates more space between the post and his actual body when he slides across and drops the blocker down to the ice.
While this may be considered “double coverage” in the sense that the blocker and paddle is sealing off ice that the left leg pad is already sealing off, this is a good move to make if Williams were to have tried to carry the puck out in front and jam it in from a better angle. The blocker going down to the ice allows Hiller to mirror the puck with the stick as Williams tries to improve his angle towards the center of the net.
The appropriate move for Hiller in this situation would have been to push across with the skate inside the net. If he connects to the left post with his boot break of the left pad instead of the skate, his body is closer to the post and he doesn’t need as much time or energy to lean and seal the post.
This is clearly not an easy thing to accomplish when you’re reacting quickly to a jam play behind the net, but it’s something to watch for. As time goes on, you’ll see more goalies slide across with their skate inside the net and some portion of their boot break (or slightly above) sealing the post. It also saves whatever edge you have on your blade, too.
So this makes it 12-of-18 goals against on the blocker side, a remarkable 66-percent. Hiller did make 30 saves on 34 shots for the 7-4 win over the Kings.
Phew! You still with me? We’re in the final 20 minutes of Hiller’s season to date. By this point, I feel sorry for him. There are certainly issues with the blocker side, but with so many goals coming on the power play, he has had to deal with tons of “seeing eye” shots, deflections, pucks coming through a maze of bodies, and shots that he can’t get a good pulse on.
Combine that with the rust he likely experienced coming out of the lockout, the strong early play of Viktor Fasth, and the fact that he clearly wasn’t his sharpest or in much of a rhythm, and these type of things certainly get magnified.
But a goalie like Hiller won’t make any excuses.
8:48 — Trevor Daley’s PP goal is another tough shot from the point that hits something on the way in (I believe the shaft of Getzlaf’s stick) and beats Hiller under the blocker. He at least has some time to track the release since bodies are off to the side as opposed to right on top of his eyes, but the deflection is a tough one to pick up, and it does sneak past him blocker side.
That makes 13-of-19 goals to the blocker side, and 10-of-19 on the PP.
12:59 — This PP goal was the result of a hard wrist shot by Morrow that goes wide, bounces off the end boards, then gets picked up by Benn. He makes a nice sharp-angle one-timer shot that beat Hiller under the glove.
Hiller finished the first period with 14 saves on 16 shots, but Fasth replaced him to start the second period. The lower-body injury does not appear to be a serious one, but for now, he’s still labeled as day-to-day.
And there you have it. On 20 goals allowed, 13 of them (63-percent) beat Hiller to the blocker side. Eleven of 20 came on the PP, or 55-percent.
I can only speak from memory, but when I think back to all of the goal breakdowns I’ve seen for NHL goalies, the average on the blocker side is between 20 and 30-percent at the most. But to give up nearly two-thirds in just one hole is pretty severe.
Yes, the sample size we’re looking at is only six games, but you have all the evidence you need right in front of you to make your own decisions on what is happening.
I for one believe that he’ll be much better once he returns from his groin injury. Maybe not instantly, but I feel like his next five games will see him post above a .900 SV%, and his GAA will shrink as well.
As you can see from the highlights, a lot of the goals he allowed were real tough saves to make. Once he gets a little more defensive support in front of him, and once he nails down one really strong win, he’ll start to track pucks better and make more of those timely highlight-reel saves we know he’s capable of making.