“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results,” according to Albert Einstein. While Detroit Red Wings’ goaltender Ville Husso has struggled mightily this season, the team continues to put him between the pipes on a consistent basis, and the numbers don’t lie. He’s not performing up to expectations. Backup goaltender James Reimer has shown flashes, but his overtime meltdown in the 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 9 reaffirms exactly what he was brought to Detroit to do — be the backup.
That leaves newly acquired netminder Alex Lyon on the outside looking in. The Red Wings signed the career journeyman to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $900,000 during the offseason and continue to carry him on the roster despite that he has yet to play this season. So, what gives?
The Red Wings sit third in the Atlantic Division behind the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers with 18 points, but Husso’s play has been beyond sub-par. Detroit was expecting more from the Finnish goaltender when they swung a trade with the St. Louis Blues to acquire him during the 2022 NHL Draft. The team then signed him to a three-year deal worth $4.75 million per season — not exactly chump change — while hoping his breakout 2021-22 season with the Blues was no fluke.
Unfortunately, it seems that might be the case. He won 26 games last season but posted a 3.11 goals-against average (GAA) and a .896 save percentage (SV%). This season, Husso has started 10 games, winning six of them, but he sports a 3.61 GAA with a .861 SV%. Too early, and often, we are seeing soft goals allowed from bad angles from the 6-foot-3 netminder. That’s not going to cut it if Detroit wants to make a playoff push.
Reimer has been stellar in a relief role, but at 35 years old, can the Red Wings count on him to help them reach the postseason for the first time since the 2015-16 season? He has been a serviceable backup for the majority of his 15-year career, but he can’t carry a team for stretches. Fortunately, it just so happens that they have a goalie on their roster who has some experience in that department and could be just what Detroit needs.
If you look up Lyon’s career stats, you won’t see a column for the 2023-24 season. As mentioned, he has yet to make his debut for Detroit, but last season, Lyon proved he could handle the pressure. The 30-year-old was thrust into the starting role with the Florida Panthers towards the end of the season, filling in for an injured Sergei Bobrovsky. He started the final eight games of their postseason push, posting a 1.87 GAA and a .942 SV%.
Florida went 6-1-1 while clinching the Eastern Conference’s eighth-seed on the final day of the season. The upstart Panthers went on an epic Cup run, coming up just short against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Final. But while Bobrovsky regained his role by Game 4 of their first-round series against Boston — he sparked a 4-3 series comeback to shock the hockey world — Lyon’s impact in helping Florida get there did not go unnoticed.
“You always try to be a positive influence, a positive source, especially as a guy in my role,” Lyon told The Hockey News. “I have no liberties to be anything but that. You just get a more heightened sense that if I’m called upon, it really matters. When you go in a game during the regular season, usually your team’s down or it’s a weird situation or something like that, so there’s a little bit more wiggle room, but when you’re in a four-overtime game, you just don’t know what’s going to happen, so I’m just trying to stay ready.”
A Goaltending Spark Is Needed
Goaltenders are fickle beasts and very unpredictable. They are often known for their weird quirks (think Marc-Andre Fleury and his love affair with his goalposts). But more than ever, they are known to go on crazy winning streaks, like “The Hamburglar” in 2015 and even the Golden Knights’ Adin Hill last season. Every year, we see a goalie catch “lightning in a bottle” to help their team reach the postseason. It’s long been a part of the game, and right now, the Red Wings could use a shot of that.
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If Husso’s struggles continue in the upcoming 2023 Global Series, Detroit may have to start weighing their options. His issues stick out like a sore thumb, and the Red Wings won’t be able to rely on their scoring every night. They need a presence in the paint who can steal a game or two, and as we’ve seen through the first 15 games, they don’t. If Lyon could help the Panthers to a playoff seed, what harm would it do to give him some starts?
Lyon In Sweden
The Global Series should provide some key insight into Detroit’s goaltending situation. It’s hard to see the club tolerating another outing like the one Husso had against the Rangers on Nov. 7, where he was shelled for five goals in the first two periods. The team will be on the big stage in Sweden on Nov. 16-17, and will want to compete with their division rivals, the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. Lyon appears to be ready should head coach Derek Lalonde call on him.
“I hate to say fear, but I think goalies are largely, and any professional athletes, are driven out of fear,” Lyon explained. “You’ve got to have some respect and fear for the game, that if you’re not ready, then that’s when things go bad.”
So, what do the Red Wings have to be afraid of? Give him a start.