Goaltending Solution Sought in Hockey Town


Written on 12/04/2009 by Jim Cerny

Watching another ugly goaltending performance by the Red Wings during last night's 4-1 loss to the Oilers just makes me wonder how and when Detroit is going to fix this season-long problem.

Jimmy Howard overplayed two shots/passes last night and, as such, allowed a pair of weak goals that helped to undermine his team.

It continues to be a case of one step forward, one step back for Howard during his inaugural NHL campaign. On Monday I thought Howard played one of his best games of the season, positionally-strong and at times outstanding in denying the Dallas Stars during a 4-1 Red Wings triumph. Then last night he looked awkward and allowed a pair of softies.

The numbers bear out Howard's inconsistent play. He has appeared in 14 games, posting a 7-5-1 record with a 2.67 goals against average and .907 save percentage. Howard has been better of late, but he doesn't seem capable just yet of stringing together a slew of solid starts in a row.

Of course this wouldn't matter if veteran Chris Osgood was playing better. Ossie is following up a very mediocre regular season performance from a year ago with another shaky one, so far, this season. Osgood's 2.75 goals against---while better than last year's 3.09 mark---is disappointing, and worse than Howard's. So, too, is his unsightly .897 save percentage.

The thing is, Osgood redeemed himself a year ago by turning in a phenomenal effort during the playoffs, carrying the Red Wings to within a game of another Stanley Cup Championship with a solid 2.01 goals against average.

Just two years removed from his third Cup, a league-best 2.09 regular season GAA, and a ridiculous 1.55 GAA in the post-season, Osgood certainly has the appropriate street cred and quite a bit of cache built up in Detroit. But yet this is the second straight regular season where you scratch your head and wince when you consider his play.

Last season Detroit was fortunate to have Ty Conklin, much more of a proven commodity than Howard, to shoulder some of the load during the regular season. Now the Red Wings have turned to Howard, the 25 year-old goalie of the future who has been apprenticing in the American Hockey League the previous four seasons, and the results are decidedly mixed.

Of course both Howard and Osgood do have somewhat of a built-in excuse for their average numbers, what with how Detroit has been ravaged by injury so far this season.

Still, Wings GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock are not ones for excuses. So what is their move? And do they have the cap space to make the type of move they may deem necessary?

Anaheim would be willing to unload J.S. Giguere now that Jonas Hiller has emerged as the favored goalie, but his contract is very difficult to move. And I'm not so sure that the Ducks would be eager to send Giguere to a conference rival like the Red Wings anyway.

Perhaps now that Rick DiPietro is closer to returning to the Islanders, New York might consider trading one of its goalies. Dwayne Roloson, who is on a two-year deal, has played better than Martin Biron, who signed a one-year contract this past summer. Likely Roloson and DiPietro, who basically has a lifetime deal to remain on the Island, would stay, and Biron would be shipped somewhere.

The Red Wings could do worse than Biron to split time with Osgood during the regular season, and push him heading into the playoffs.

If such a move would take place, it would not be for amother few weeks, I would think. DiPietro is going to play some games in the minor leagues starting this Saturday, and you'd have to believe that the Islanders want to see him play a few games at the NHL level and see if he can remain healthy, a big IF considering he played only five games a year ago, and has yet to play this season.

In the meantime Howard and Osgood will try and convince Red Wings brass that outside help is not needed.

From my point of view, I disagree. Change is needed in goal for the Red Wings.

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  1. Brandon |

    Why not trade for Martin Biron?

  2. Brandon |

    I know from reading the article that they are considering it and to clarify I am asking how that would be considered a risk if one at all....how about Joey MacDonald of AHL Toronto Mapleleafs or someone like Biron

  3. Jim |

    Brandon, precisely. I think Detroit is a logical landing spot for Marty Biron, but only after DiPietro proves that he is NHL ready. That could be another few weeks yet.
    As for MacDonald, he has some NHL experience with Isles, but I am not sure he is enough of upgrade over Howard. Plus Leafs have to keep him in the system with Jonas Gustavsson's heart issues.
    Biron has the requisite NHL experience, and affordable contract, to peek Detroit's interest, I think.


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