The Detroit Red Wings battle for the crease continues to intensify as the club appears content to foster three netminders for the duration of the season.
It’s not uncommon for an organization to identify and correct a weakness. Still, it seems as though general manager Steve Yzerman wanted to ensure that head coach Derek Lalonde would not go through what he had to endure last season; he needed to shore up the backup goaltending position. Last season, the Detroit Red Wings did not have a formidable backup goaltending option. Although starter Ville Husso held down the cage for the better part of the season, his play significantly declined as he fatigued late in the season. It had been Husso’s first time as a featured goaltender. Husso outplayed Jordan Binnington during his final season with the St. Louis Blues, which definitely initiated Yzerman’s interest in bringing him to Detroit as the starter.
The Detroit Red Wings were unable to get any consistent play from Alex Nedeljkovic or Magnus Hellberg. Nedeljkovic gave the Red Wings a .895 save percentage and a 3.53 goals-against average to back a 5-7-2 record. Hellberg went 4-8-1 with a .885 save percentage and a 3.29 goals-against average. With that being said, Nedeljkovic has rebounded in limited action this season as a backup in Pittsburgh. He’s made four starts for the Penguins, going 2-2 with an impressive .937 save percentage and a 2.26 goals-against average. Penguins president and general manager Kyle Dubas signed both Red Wings’ castaways this past summer. Hellberg has made three appearances for the Penguins this season, sporting a .922 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average.
Death, taxes, and a good old-fashioned Detroit Red Wings goaltending controversy.
In fairness, there isn’t much of a goaltender controversy (it’s more between fans on social media) in Detroit, but more of a goaltending carousel. This trio seems to have an excellent relationship and push each other during practice. Lalonde had been playing Husso two straight games early in the season and then veteran James Reimer one. That had been the rotation for quite some time, and while Husso picked right up where he left off at the end of last season (struggling), it was Reimer exceeding expectations. Of late, it’s been Alex Lyon splitting time with Husso, and quite frankly, likewise to Reimer early on in the year, the 30-year-old journeyman has outplayed the supposed franchise netminder.
Reimer, 35, brought in with Lyon to stabilize the position behind Husso, has done precisely that. Lyon has defended the cage admirably with a stellar 1.26 goals against average and a stout .958 save percentage and has gone 3-1 with a shutout through his first four starts with the Red Wings. Likewise, Reimer has maintained a 2.30 goals-against average paired with a .917 save percentage this season. He’s 2-2-2 with a shutout this season. So, as mentioned earlier, Yzerman diagnosed a need and has seemed to address it perfectly, and may I add, affordably. Reimer is on a one-year deal with a $1.5 million cap hit, and Lyon is on a two-year deal worth $900,000 annually. Husso’s current deal averages $4.75 million per season and is set to expire at the conclusion of next season.
The Detroit Red Wings are not getting starter production from Husso, although he’s performed better recently. As of now, Reimer is the odd man out but will likely see another opportunity before too long, but Lalonde needs to continue the recent trend of rotating Lyon and Husso because it’s translating to wins of late. The Red Wings are 6-2-2 over their last ten contests.
Again, Husso’s play has improved of late, but he shouldn’t be getting a two-game-to-one ratio with how sufficiently Lyon, in particular, has played recently. Husso’s numbers this season are not those of a starting goaltender of a hopeful playoff club. He’s posting a .891 save percentage and a 3.48 goals-against average in 13 games this season. Recently, Yzerman expressed some concerns with his starting netminder when questioned about the addition of Patrick Kane.
Yzerman was asked if this signals a playoff push, and he immediately pointed to his teams’ goaltending. On numerous occasions during the press conference, he said, ‘I hate to always put it on the goaltending,’ followed by but, if we (Detroit) hope to qualify for the postseason, they will need excellent, steady goaltending.