Jonas Hiller, Trevor Lewis

How much will Hiller improve Calgary’s goaltending?

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In a way, it seems fitting that the Calgary Flames signing Jonas Hiller was one of the most interesting – maybe even downright mysterious – moves of the 2014 offseason. After all, it’s been a really odd run for the Swiss-born netminder lately.

An answer to each others’ problems?

In the past three seasons, he suffered through a season with a record below .500 (2011-12), vertigo-like symptoms (2012-13) and the regular upheaval that is the Anaheim Ducks’ goalie situation (most of his stay in Anaheim battling the likes of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov and Frederik Andersen for playing time).

Meanwhile, the Flames’ netminding situation has been a mess. It’s easy to pin their troubles on Miikka Kiprusoff’s decline and departure, but Calgary’s save percentage has ranked in the NHL’s bottom 10 in in three of the last four seasons (while being in the top third in the NHL in 2011-12), so this is an issue that’s been lingering for some time.

As it turns out, both sides are looking for stability.

It’s unlikely that the Flames’ team-wide performance will remain the same next season, but Flames Nation plugged in some of Hiller’s numbers and saw that he could be a significant difference-maker … even if he’s not at his best. That said, even a nice goaltending boost might merely make them a failed bubble contender instead of a lottery team in the end.

The problem with improvement

Actually, that brings us to what might be the real question: just how good do the Flames want Hiller to be?

Ignoring his contract and looking at the goalie based on his career highs and lows alone, the 32-year-old might honestly be one of the biggest gambles in the league. He’s shown the talent to be elite (or near-elite), yet his production and health inspire the label “erratic” just as often.

Most importantly, the Flames don’t seem like a formidable team even if you assume that you’re getting strong goaltending. Instead, a scrappy bunch with Hiller might just ruin their chances to “tank” and add a key young player to compliment the likes of Sean Monahan, Sven Baertschi and Sam Bennett.

Executive Brian Burke seemingly detests exploiting CBA loopholes, and bringing in a talented (if occasionally crestfallen) goalie like Hiller implies a push toward competence. It’s anyone’s guess if that will work out, yet the odd thing is that the Flames might be better off if this experiment fails.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.