Going into the 2013 season few expected the Anaheim Ducks to be as good as they’re playing right now. Through a third of the season the Ducks currently find themselves atop their division, 2nd in the Western Conference and 2nd in the entire league. Not bad for a team that could possibly be down 2 of their 3 big names by the end of the year (Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf), but the major reason why the Ducks have enjoyed such success to start off the year has very little to do with their big name forwards and instead has everything to do with rookie goaltender Viktor Fasth.
Fasth has started 8 games for the Ducks in this young season and is 8-0 with a .933 Save Percentage and a 1.78 goals against average, what more could you ask for from a rookie goalie? He’s beginning to steal the limelight from Jonas Hiller who has suited up for 7 games winning 4 with a less impressive .880 Save Percentage and a 3.34 goals against average. If the Ducks do plan on making a run at the Stanley Cup their best bet is to make Fasth the starter, even his teammates have faith in Fasth.
“He’s been our most valuable player. He has come in and given us a chance to win every game.” ~ Bobby Ryan
Starting the season 8-0 makes Fasth the first goaltender to do so in the NHL since 2006 and gives him a shot of etching his name into the record books should he amass 10 straight wins and with the way the Ducks have been rolling there’s a real possibility. Since Hiller went down with an injury on the 8th, the door had been set wide open for the 30 year old rookie to claim grasp on the starting job and now it appears the door for Hiller to reclaim that title may be shutting. Right now and it may be because Hiller is still lingering from his injury- Fasth gives the Ducks the best shot at winning every night and he’s making the most out of his opportunity, playing in front of a motivated goaltender is a lot easier especially in a shortened season.
Coming into this season very few if any knew who Viktor Fasth was outside of him being Hiller’s backup- heck even fewer knew he was a backup. He comes from Sweden playing for division 2 and 3 teams and flew under the radar after a knee injury 2008-2009 that sidelined him for 9 months. But in 2010 he signed a 2 year deal with Stockholm AIK out of the Swedish Elite League where he won Sweden’s version of the Vezina trophy 2 years in a row. Now he’s become a household name and one of the most important parts of the Ducks team.
In a normal NHL season it would be tough to evaluate how much an 8 game winning streak like Fasth’s means to his team but in the shortened season a streak like that can be the difference for a team and right now the Ducks are reaping the benefits. So far Fasth has out-played Hiller and appears to be the hot hand of the two but how much more playing time will Fasth enjoy? In most cases once the regular starter comes back the backup (especially one with as little experience as Fasth) goes back to riding the bench, but because Bruce Boudreau is now the Ducks coach Viktor Fasth may just find himself as the starter. The last time Boudreau had two solid goalies with the Washington Capitals he turned to the rookie Michal Neuvirth and rode the hot netminder.
If Fasth continues his hot play he could find his name in the mix for a MVP or Vezina award and if the Ducks make it back to the playoffs look for him to sign a big extension somewhere in the NHL (if the Ducks don’t lock him up). Hiller has only backstopped the Ducks to the playoffs once in his 4 years and has been extremely inconsistent with his play, it’s time to ride the hot goaltender and see how far he’ll carry the team.
“I’ve always said it’s nice to have a good backup … he gave me days to not feel rushed coming back.” ~ Jonas Hiller when asked about Viktor Fasth.
Although Hill has remained the starter through two rough seasons and still seems pretty confident, he needs to be careful or he could end up riding the bench. Right now the Ducks have two netminders capable of being the starter, right now Viktor Fasth is turning heads and making a name for himself and gives the Ducks the best chance of winning and providing solid goaltending. Which is why the Ducks need to allow Fasth to take the starting role over for now.