Detroit — Goaltender Ville Husso was arguably the Red Wings’ most valuable player for the first half of this season.
As the Wings approach the final few days of the season, Husso isn’t playing at the same level.
Monday’s 6-1 loss against Dallas was the latest disappointment, with Husso only lasting 12 minutes before being pulled. Husso allowed three goals on five shots, and now has allowed 14 goals on 69 shots over his last three games.
That works out to a ghastly 6.22 goals-against average and .797 save percentage. It’s a far cry from the Husso in the opening months of the season.
“It’s just an unfortunate stretch. We’re living in the current and the present and his last couple of starts were just — I don’t think it’s what he is,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “He’s just going through a little stretch right now.
“You feel for him a little bit because he’s shown us some really good hockey this year.”
There was one obvious goal allowed Monday that showed Husso wasn’t right and wasn’t as sharp as he mostly has been this season.
Dallas defenseman Esa Lindell’s wrist shot from above the circle didn’t look like a dangerous offensive chance — yet it eluded a frustrated Husso.
“He doesn’t give up that goal ever, and for it to just go clean in from 40-50 feet, he’s just not seeing it,” Lalonde said. “Goalies go through stuff like that. Sometimes they fight through it. Obviously (Monday) wasn’t one of those nights.”
Husso missed two weeks in March with a lower-body injury. At the time, it was uncertain whether Husso would return this season, but Husso gradually felt better and returned, shutting out Montreal, 5-0, in his first start.
But it’s gone downhill since. Still, Lalonde was quick to insist the injury isn’t affecting Husso.
“There’s a little alluding that this is injury-based, and I’d be careful of that,” Lalonde said. “He’s healthy. We’d never put him in (if he was hurt). His game is just not sharp. You guys have seen him when he’s sharp and unfortunately this last week, it was a rough go for him.”
Monday’s game was Husso’s 55th appearance, a career high. Lalonde has talked this season about the need to push Husso into that area of games played and get Husso accustomed to such a workload. An elite starting NHL goalie, who gets the bulk of work for his team, is going to play in the 50-60 game range.
This was Husso’s first trip into that range of games. The Wings are hopeful this was a valuable learning experience.
“We want him to be a potential No. 1 for us and he’s had flashes of showing us he can do that,” Lalonde said. “But this is all part of that. Maybe it’s a lesson for him in how he approaches his offseason and hopefully being ready when camp starts next year.”
With games in Carolina (Tuesday) and Tampa (Thursday) to close out the season, and clinging to a .500 record (35-35-10), the Wings want to end the season on a positive note rather than an extended losing streak.
Forward Andrew Copp has seen the benefit of ending a season on a winning note.
“The year I went to the Western Conference finals with Winnipeg (2017-18), the year before we didn’t make the playoffs but we won seven in a row to end the year,” Copp said. “That momentum set the standard of this is how we need to play.
“We have to raise our standard over the next two (games) and that has to be where we take off for next year and not go back to square one.”
Lalonde would like to see the Wings continue building on what they’ve accomplished thus far.
“We’re sitting on a .500 season,” Lalonde said. “Is it the end of the world, does it really change much, if we finish a couple of games under .500? Probably not. Our draft spot will probably stay in a similar spot.
“It’s a little thing, an opportunity to have a .500 season and growth from last year.”
The Wings recalled forward Danny O’Regan from minor league affiliate Grand Rapids under emergency conditions, while assigning defenseman Simon Edvinsson to the Griffins.
Edvinsson had played nine games in the NHL, and one more game would have kicked in the first year of his three-year entry-level contract.
O’Regan, 29, has spent this season with the Griffins and San Diego Gulls, scoring 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) and 16 penalty minutes in 64 games. O’Regan was acquired from Anaheim in December as part of a three-team deal that sent forward Givani Smith to Florida. O’Regan has 30 games of NHL experience with San Jose, Buffalo and Anaheim.
… David Perron, who had the lone Wings goal Monday, has 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in the last eight games.