NHL Central Division Misery Index: Detroit Red Wings goalies stop, collaborate and listen

Detroit Free Press

Ryan Ford
| Detroit Free Press

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The wait is over.

On Oct. 29, 2019, Jimmy Howard picked up the win for the Detroit Red Wings, stopping 31 of 32 shots against the Oilers — yes, we’re surprised too, and we watched that game — for what would turn out to be his final career victory.

The Wings won 13 more games in the 2019-20 season, all with Jonathan Bernier in net. Howard retired and the Wings brought in Thomas Greiss as a free agent in the offseason — only to see him go winless wearing the Winged Wheel.

Finally, 467 days after Howard’s win, the Wings had a goalie other than Bernier get a W, as Greiss stopped 36 of 37 shots by the Panthers on Sunday in Sunrise, Florida.

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It wasn’t for lack of variety, either. The Wings had 40 non-Bernier starts over the streak, with Howard picking up 27 losses last season, Greiss taking those nine L’s this year and Eric Comrie and Calvin Pickard each going down twice.

Meanwhile, every other NHL franchise had at least two goalies win a game. In fact, four — the Hurricanes, Avalanches, Canadiens and Devils — had five goalies each nab wins.

The Devils got wins from two different types of wood: (Scott) Wedgewood and (Mackenzie) Blackwood. (Though none on Arbor Day, of course.) The Blackhawks got wins from two goalies last week alone. The Panthers had two goalies get wins against the Wings in January. The Lightning have gotten 35 straight starts from Andrei Vasilevskiy (admittedly, that includes the playoffs) and still squeezed a win out of backup Curtis McElhinney over the past 15 months. Heck, the Canes got a win from a 42-year-old Zamboni driver serving as their emergency backup, before the Wings got one from one of three guys who knew they were starting early in the day.

But hey, that’s water under the crease, to make up borrow an old netminder’s phrase. The question now is, how long will it take for the Wings to get a win from a goalie not named Greiss?

While we wait for that goalie-to-be-named-later, let’s run through the Central Division’s Misery Index in Week 4, from the least miserable to the most:

8. Lightning

This week’s record, goal differential: 3-0-0, +9.

Last week’s ranking: 6.

Barclay Goodrow has two goals in 17 games over two seasons with the Lightning. Steven Stamkos has 424 in 812 games. You’ll never guess which one of them scored Goal Nos. 5,999 and 6,000 for the franchise in Friday’s win over the Red Wings. (Also, seven of the franchise’s top 13 in goals are on this year’s roster, which is a good reminder the Bolts were awful for a lot longer than we like to remember.)

7. Hurricanes

This week’s record, goal differential: 2-1-0, 0.

Last week’s ranking: 8.

During the offseason, the Canes decided against upgrading their goalie tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer despite one of the deepest free-agent goalie markets in recent history. And now, Mrazek is out for an undetermined span after having surgery on his right thumb. Good thing the Canes know a little something about unexpected backup goalies, we guess.

6. Blackhawks

This week’s record, goal differential: 2-0-1, +1.

Last week’s ranking: 2.

Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) had four goals, two assists and 17 shots on goal in three games after eight days in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. We’re used to big comebacks from Chicago stars, but normally it takes a couple of summers playing minor-league baseball to kick in.

5. Stars

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-1-1, +3.

Last week’s ranking: 4.

Goalie Anton Khudobin, the star of last season’s Stanley Cup Final run (and the only experienced netminder on the roster until Ben Bishop’s return in March) sat out Sunday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Blackhawks after violating an undisclosed team rule. Stars coach Rick Bowness was a bit terse on the suspension, saying “I have very few rules, but you damn well better follow them.” Bowness later added he “would turn this car around, right now, just keep it up.”


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4. Red Wings

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-2-0, -4.

Last week’s ranking: 1.

The Wings gave up three goals in the first five minutes Wednesday but still had a better time in Tampa than some other visiting team led by a Detroit draft pick this week.

3. Predators

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-2-0, -3.

Last week’s ranking: 5.

The Preds finally got a goal this season from one of their top two centers — Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene — on Thursday when Duchene picked up two in their 6-5 OT win over the Panthers. (Johansen was injured in the second period of that game and didn’t play in Friday’s loss.) This despite paying the duo a combined $16 million this season. Which is weird, since normally it’s Vanderbilt with the underperforming centers in Nashville.

2. Panthers

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-1-1, -3.

Last week’s ranking: 7.

It’s tough to complain after the Panthers were the final NHL team to lose in regulation this season — but that loss featured four goals from a Red Wings team averaging 1.8 goals entering Sunday, so … yeah…

1. Blue Jackets

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-2-0, -3.

Last week’s ranking: 3.

The Jackets lost in regulation Sunday after a bizarre situation in which they challenged a goal giving the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead with 1:15 left in the second period, alleging Vincent Trocheck was offsides prior to the score. Despite video evidence that showed Trocheck offsides, the goal was allowed — and Columbus was given a two-minute penalty for the challenge. OK. Then, during the intermission, the NHL admitted the goal shouldn’t have counted — and wiped the remainder of the penalty away. But. Left. The. Goal. On. The. Scoreboard. <insert hand-clap emojis if you’re reading this in Columbus>

It did not go over well with the Jackets. Coach John Tortorella, rarely afraid to open his roaster, gave a virtual “no comment” — “I’m going to let the league explain it. I’m out.” Which should tell you just how bad it was.

New forward Patrik Laine (who had two goals Sunday, for three in three games with the Jackets) was a little less circumspect: “That’s the biggest joke that I’ve ever seen, especially this kind of game, two good teams playing good hockey, a tight game, what should have been 3-3 not 4-3,” Laine said. “It’s a tough one, but we all make mistakes and we just got to learn from them and just move on.

“So generous to take the 40 seconds off the clock,” he continued. “I’ve never seen that one before but I guess there’s always a first time.”

And you thought the Laine-Tortorella marriage wasn’t going to work.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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