"Maybe if we...no, no that didn't work either."
"Well what about...nope."
These have got to be some of the thoughts running through the heads of Red Wings shooters in this series. Jonas Hiller has kept the Wings to only 7 goals on 146 shots, that is a save percentage of 95.2 %. Guh. So how do you beat him?
I went back and looked at each goal scored by the Wings thus far in the series. Out of the 7 goals, only one was to his glove side. Johan Franzen's top-shelf goal in Game 2 to tie the game was that one and in Hiller's defense it was a bang-bang play with a pass coming from behind the goal to Franzen in front. So once again, how do you beat him? Not glove side is the answer.
Here's a quick chronological map of the goal's scored. 5-Hole, low stick side, 5-hole, weird deflection off defenseman's skate, 5-hole, glove-side high, rebound to low glove side (7 hole). It looks like the clear cut winner is 5-hole but that's a little misleading. Only one of those 5-hole goals was a clean shot --Samuelsson's backhander. Franzen's was more of a stuff in, Lidstrom's was a quick play in which Hiller was unable to reset. So once again, how do you beat him?
Hiller relies heavily on his butterfly style and is quick at dropping to the ice to get the pads down. With a 6'2" frame and lanky arms, Hiller has great reach with his glove and can take away a lot of the upper part of the glove side, leaving little for the shooter to work with. Add in great lateral movement in the blue paint and it gets really tough. Oh yeah, he also has superb positioning skills and is rarely in the wrong position in his crease.
Aim high, young men. Aim high, stick side. The way to beat Hiller (in my humble opinion) is high stick side. The only problem? Out of the 17 players that have started in this series against the Ducks, 14 are left handed shots. No big deal right? Well, a shot from a left hander (when he's not given time to set it up perfect) is naturally going to come off on the left side of his body, where his stick is. That also just happens to be the side that Hiller's big ol' glove is on. It also doesn't help that the glove save is a more natural and quick save than the stick/blocker save. I mean, I've seen him make a glove save when a blocker save would do. Take a second and try it yourself, see which one feels easier and takes less time, raising the roof or the Quasimodo shrug
In the last series (Columbus), the Wings had another goalie with a glove on that side in Steve Mason. The Wings were able to solve him but that was mainly due to the lack of defensive pressure the Blue Jackets put on Detroit shooters. The Ducks, however, are quick to the puck carrier and force a shot before the player is ready. Often, this results in a shot to the glove side of Hiller, his strong side, and often a low shot.
If the Wings want to get some more pucks in the net they're going to have to try to get some shots on Hiller's stick side. He drops early and often to the ice and the Wings need to exploit that if they want to get to the next round. Otherwise, they'll be sitting on the couch with the Sharks, Hiller's last victim.
To get the puck to the other side of his body, the Detroit shooters need a fraction of a second longer, something they're not getting from the pressing Ducks' D. The right handers aren't exactly our best goal scorers either in Kirk Maltby, Mikael Samuelsson, and Chris Chelios; with Sammy the most talented of the bunch. So how can the lefties remedy this? My suggestion is passes down low to those playing the "off-wing", giving Hiller little time to reposition and little chance to use his glove.