Ville Husso’s numbers have ballooned as the Detroit Red Wings sputter towards the finish line, but don’t blame it on him coming back from a nagging lower-body injury.
That was the message from coach Derek Lalonde after Husso was pulled in the first period, of what was his 55th start of the season. Husso let in three goals on five shots in 12:10 minutes to the Dallas Stars, after allowing 11 the two prior games. In those three games, Husso has a 6.18 goals-against average and .797 save percentage. His only good outing since reappearing after a two-week layoff was shutting out a decimated Montreal Canadiens team.
“I think there’s alluding this is injury based,” Lalonde said after Monday’s 6-1 loss. “He’s healthy. His game is just not sharp. We’ve seen him when he looks sharp, and this last week, it was tough for him. He’s shown us really good hockey, but this is an unfortunate stretch.
“His last couple starts, I don’t think it’s what he is.”
The Wings had certainly better hope not. Husso was brought in last summer, acquired via trade from the St. Louis Blues and then signed to a three-year, $14.25 million deal. He emerged as the No. 1 goaltender two weeks into the season, and through the first half and into much of the second, he was the team’s most valuable player, consistently giving his teammates a chance to win. After 50 starts, in mid-March, he had a 2.97 GAA and .901 save percentage — good numbers, considering he has not had an elite team in front of him.
Husso played March 20, but then an injury that Lalonde said at the time had “been underlying probably for a couple years,” flared up, to the point Lalonde indicated Husso might miss the final month of the season. But visits to specialists convinced Husso and the Wings he would be able to get back to work, and that it would be in his best interest to do so.
“This is part of the process,” Lalonde said. “We need to get him back in there. Even the medical side of things advised to get him back in there and see how he handled that situation that he was dealing with with his lower body. But even his game, we want to see all these players in a new situation and where they are at. Unfortunately, it’s been a really tough stretch for him. It’s going to be hard because these last three games are just going to crush his overall numbers. It’s real, it’s whole body of work. But there was some hockey this year where he was excellent, played great for us, won us a lot of hockey games.
“It’s been such a tough stretch for him. He’s not seeing it. Sometimes goalies go through that. We’ll see how he feels. But no regrets, this is part of the big picture, even if it’s maybe a little step backwards, hopefully it’s two steps forward for him.”
Lalonde referred to starting Husso the last three games as pushing him past his threshold. As good as Husso has been overall, the Wings want to see how he holds up this time of year, against opponents fighting for playoff positoning.
“That’s part of getting him out of his threshold,” Lalonde said. “We want him to be a potential number one for us and he’s had flashes of showing us he can do that. But, this is all part of that. It’s a lesson for him and how he he approaches his offseason and hopefully being ready when camp starts next year.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.