By Adam Brady
His team won a second straight Pacific Division title two nights ago and goes into next week’s postseason as one of the top teams in the NHL. Yet in some ways, you wouldn’t want to be in Bruce Boudreau’s sneakers right now.
That’s because Boudreau has the unenviable task of having to choose a starting goaltender for Game 1 of the playoffs, not to mention two pivotal games this weekend to end the regular season.
In one corner, you have Jonas Hiller, who has been Anaheim’s No. 1 netminder for most of the season, but hasn’t been his sharpest in his last three appearances. His roughest outing in that stretch came last Friday night vs. Nashville at Honda Center, when he gave up four goals on just 17 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Predators.
Hiller was pulled from that game in favor of Frederik Andersen, who took a slap shot from Preds defenseman Shea Weber off his mask in the second period and was replaced by Hiller to start the third. Andersen, who has been outstanding this season (19-5-0 record, 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage), hasn’t appeared in a game since. But he went through a full practice today at The Rinks – Anaheim Ice and had a positive report.
“I wanted to get a full practice in and see how that felt, and it felt pretty good,” said the 24-year-old Danish rookie. “It’s just a matter of how I feel on the ice positioning-wise and how I see the puck too. But I felt pretty good.”
Said Boudreau of Andersen’s work today, “It was more about getting him ready. The other guys have been practicing really hard and/or playing. Freddie’s been sitting at home not doing a lot. I thought he needed a real good practice today, whether he’s playing tomorrow or Sunday.”
And then there’s 20-year-old newcomer John Gibson, who was pulled up from AHL Norfolk in Andersen’s absence and performed admirably in his first two NHL games. He saved all 18 shots he faced in his debut last Monday night in Vancouver, and stopped 36 of 38 in an intense matchup Wednesday with San Jose in which the Ducks clinched the division crown.
Minutes after the game ended, Boudreau was asked about his goaltending situation and admitted, “I don’t know what we’re going to do now.”
The Ducks are getting ready for two key games this weekend – at LA tomorrow night and then home to the Avalanche in the regular season finale Sunday evening at Honda Center. Both games are important for a Ducks team that is currently leading Colorado and St. Louis by a point in the battle for the Western Conference crown a No. 1 seed in the postseason.
Yet after today’s practice, Boudreau remained coy about his choices in net. “The math doesn’t work there,” he said of his three netminders. “I’ve told all the goalies that it’s a game-by-game situation. I told them who’s starting tomorrow. We’ll re-evaluate after the game, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Boudreau said he’s not losing any sleep over the decision. Not yet, at least. “I don’t feel any pressure because you just hope you make the right call,” he said. “There’s a one-in-three chance. One has [playoff] experience, and two don’t. One has experience of playing 27 games in the NHL, and one has two games. They’re both very good young goalies. I feel comfortable with anybody going in net, quite frankly. You make the decision and you live with it.”
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