Sharks emerge victorious from the lion's den in Vancouver, face the King of the Jungle tonight
|20-11-4, 44 points||10-21-6, 26 points|
|9th in Western Conference||14th in Western Conference|
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Battle of California
Every once in awhile you'll come across a player that just seems to have a team's number no matter the circumstances. For some reason or another they manage to elevate their play to levels previously unseen. Sometimes the player is an All-Star, other times it is a role player. But for whatever the reason, they always seem to show up.
For Vancouver, that player is Dave Bolland. For Philadelphia, that player is Sidney Crosby. For the Eastern Conference, that player is Tim Thomas.
For San Jose, that honor lies with Jonas Hiller.
It's a rare occurrence indeed when the statistics over the long haul match the perception of the player. Oftentimes a "Team Killer" is born out of a few big moments that sting because of their significance, not necessarily a consistent output of domination. But when the narrative road meets reality you really have something on your hands-- an honest to god thorn in the side of a fanbase that always seems to stick and sting at the worst moments imaginable.
Again, that honor lies with Jonas Hiller.
What follows is Hiller's year-by-year statistical breakdown since he came into the League in 2007. As you can see, the perception of Hiller as a Sharks Killer really does ring true-- he's been markedly better against the Sharks than the rest of the NHL, both in his career numbers as well as on a yearly basis.
Jonas Hiller vs. San Jose (Regular Season)
| ||vs. SJS||- || ||vs. NHL|
|YEAR||GP || GAA ||SV%||-||GP||GAA||SV%|
|2011-2012||2 ||1.00 ||.971||-||32 ||3.18||.897|
|2010-2011||3 ||2.21 ||.943||-||49 ||2.56||.924|
|2009-2010||4 ||2.77 ||.915||-||59 ||2.73||.918|
|2008-2009||4 ||2.04 ||.929||-||46 ||2.39||.919|
|2007-2008||2||2.55 ||.929||-||23 ||2.06||.927|
|TOTAL||15|| 2.20 ||.934||-|| 209 ||2.62||.917|
Yes, that's correct. Despite being in the midst of his worst year of his career, Hiller has managed to put up his best numbers against San Jose to date. Sure it's a two-game sample size, but it serves the purpose of illustrating just how good he's been against the Sharks over this time frame.
To put this into further context-- Hiller's .934 SV% against San Jose is his best regular season total against any team in the Western Conference. Let that sink in for a moment before it slowly dawns on you...
These are regular season totals. That .956 SV% performance during Anaheim's upset over the Presidents Trophy winning Sharks in 2009? Not included. Well, not included in that list anyways. Because we're certain that memory sits at the ready whenever you're looking for a good cry. More effective than American Beauty, that one.
Have to love what San Jose did against Vancouver on Monday. It was about as close as you get to a must-win shootout without falling into 2010 New York-Philly territory, and even if the win is about as meaningful as a loss in the grand scheme of standings points and the like, the amount of emotional involvement attached to that win was a big stepping stone for the club. It remains to be seen how things play out over the long haul against the Canucks, but for now you hope it gives them a little extra gas in the tank as they head into Anaheim against a team that has handled them this season (0-3-0) and ices a goaltender who has consistently had their number (le sigh).
As we covered last time these two teams met, the Ducks are in free fall mode with no light at the end of the tunnel. Ryan Getzlaf trade rumors continue to swirl, Bruce Boudreau hasn't managed to right the ship, and the team seems destined for a lottery pick.
With San Jose 5-1-1 in their last seven, the stars seem to be aligning for a victory.
If only solving Hiller was that easy.
Prediction: Sharks win 6-1. Goals by McGinn, Couture, Marleau, and Boyle in the first ten minutes, with Ferriero and Burns picking up some scraps later in the game.