The NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs, you may recall, are riddled with secrets. The line between a broken bone and flu-like symptoms is often rather comically blurred. One such area of mystery has been who the Ducks will start in their net.
Surely the veteran Jonas Hiller, who had collected 24 wins by the end of January and at one point shut-out opponents in three of four games, will get the nod despite some recent struggles, right?
The OC Register, among other outlets, think the only thing they do have figured out about the Ducks' goaltending situation is that it will not be Hiller...
Well, think we know this about the Ducks' goalie quandary for Game 1. It ain't going to be Hiller.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) April 14, 2014
"Sometimes you have to make tough decisions," Boudreau told media this week of Hiller. "The good news is you see him out there working really hard. I think we're in a position where we have three good goalies. I don't think I can screw it up too bad, whoever I choose."
Hiller has been offering quotes indicative of dissatisfaction, backing up the assertions.
"The whole situation isn't easy," he told media Monday, "but at the same time, I'm here in the playoffs, we had the best record in Ducks history, and I know I've been a big part of it, so it's not really a reason to hang your head."
The 24-year old rookie Andersen played in 28 games this season, recording a sterling record of 20-5-0 in the process with a .923 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. He missed three games after being struck in the head with a puck, but returned to finish the regular season with a 27 save win over the Kings.
20-year old prospect Gibson was re-called last week when Andersen went down and started all three games - not Hiller - and the controversy was thus created. He won each of his first three NHL starts stopping 83 of 87 shots against for a .954 save percentage and a 1.33 GAA.
Gibson, a Pittsburgh native and a product of the USHL National Team Development Program, is considered one of the league's premier goaltending prospects and now everyone knows why.
So you can see why Boudreau is unafraid in the face of this choice. At the first sign of trouble he can turn in multiple directions. The guess is Andersen, however.
The Stars are quite certain they have just the one, and with just the two playoff losses in 2007 under his belt, Lehtonen's not far off from the playoff experience these rookies bring to the table, but his performances on the Olympic stage look even more valuable now.
On Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket this morning with Norm Hitzges Lindy Ruff admitted to similar findings with Anaheim's situation in goal.
"I believe so," when asked if he thought they'd see Andersen. "I'm leaning on the fact that they were disappointed in... the fact that Hiller didn't see any action and wasn't [in] down the stretch makes me lean towards we'll probably see Andersen. It's a long shot to see young Gibson who they obviously have high hopes for but doesn't have very much experience right now."
(Thanks to Erin for the quote from The Ticket)
Goaltending has been a strong part of the Ducks/Stars post-season battles - from JS Giguere's run in 2003 to upset a strong Dallas side to Marty Turco's finest hour in 2008 as he plowed through Anaheim (then San Jose).
This time around will it be another playoff first-timer stealing the show for Anaheim? Or will Kari Lehtonen finally seize his hard-fought chance to shine? As with most things goaltender-related, it's probably overblown, and the guys with the pucks on their sticks will do the talking that matters.