By DANIEL DULLUM
Sports Radio Service
Saturday, January 11, 2014
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Leave it to a goaltender not to be superstitious about any connotation involving the number 13.
With a little luck, and a consistent rotation ot talented teammates in front of him, Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller is enjoying the kind of hot streak keepers thrive on. The Ducks’ 5-3 win over Phoenix Saturday night gave Hiller his 13th consecutive win – the longest such streak in the NHL since New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur won 12 straight between Oct. 23-Nov. 20, 1997.
“I hope 13 is not an unlucky number,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s playing tomorrow too (at home against Detroit).”
In the month of December, Hiller was 9-0-1 with a 1.96 goals against average.
“It’s definitely a great thing, but at the same time, I’m really excited about winning with the team,” Hiller said. “That’s what’s the most fun right now. Personal things are like cherry on the cake, but you need the whole team to win.”
“If you take each day as its own entity, you don’t think of it as the number 13. You just come in and play hard, and it’s our turn to go out and play hard tomorrow. That’s the way we look at things.”
“If the guys score four or five goals every night, it’s not too tough to win as a goalie,” Hiller said. “I think those things come because we work hard, keep on forechecking, keep on doing the things we need to do. We have four strong lines and that’s tough to contain.”
Defenseman Hampus Lindholm scored twice in the Ducks’ win – the first goal of the night against Thomas Greiss and the only tally allowed by Mike Smith.
“It was unbelievable,” Lindholm said of his first career two-goal game. “I don’t think we played our best game, but we got a good win. It’s always good to win in someone else’s rink.”
The Ducks have won eight of their last nine road games, and have averaged 4.8 goals over their last six games since losing 3-1 to San Jose on Dec. 9.
“We have a game plan out there and we know we’re a good team,” Lindholm said. “When you do things right out there, you know you’re going to get a couple of goals.”
On this night, the Ducks put together a three-goal flurry in the second period, including Ryan Getzlaf’s 23rd goal of the season that chased Greiss. But Anaheim’s defense also allowed Phoenix to score a couple of late goals, one on a two-man advantage with less than two minutes to play.
“We’d like to play a more complete game,” Boudreau said. “We don’t have the luxury in the third period of not playing hard up to the end. Tonight, I’m not saying we didn’t play hard, but we took a couple of dumb penalties.
“It was a sloppy finish and sure, we’re concerned about it. It’s still not the 60-minute game you want, but it’ll get there.”
“Sure, there are some areas where we can always get better,” Lindholm said. “You can’t expect to play super good out there every game. You want to improve on the small things going toward the playoffs “
The Ducks have 73 points (34-8-5), best in the NHL as of January 11, a mark that includes winning 16 of their last 17 games. Anaheim is also the first team to reach 70 points-or-better this season. Though it’s early January, Saturday’s game was the final meeting of the season between the Ducks and Coyotes, with Anaheim sweeping the season series 5-0-0.
“You always want to win those series because we might face them in the playoffs,” Hiller said. “You want to make sure you have that confidence that we can play against them and win.
“When you win, you want to just forget about yourself,” he added. “Here, everybody believes we can beat anybody in any stadium.”
That’s a point the Ducks are driving home on a nightly basis. A return to the Stanley Cup finals for Anaheim is not an unreasonable goal for this squad to pursue.
How good are the Ducks? We’ll know within the next week or so. There’s a couple of home games coming up against Detroit and Vancouver, followed by a two-game road swing to Chicago and St. Louis. That four-game stretch will say a lot about the NHL West overall and the Anaheim Ducks lofty perch in particular.
Daniel Dullum covers the NHL West for Sports Radio Service.
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