No reason for panic over Detroit Red Wings’ goaltending

Octopus Thrower

So, neither Ville Husso, James Reimer, or Alex Lyon has grabbed the opportunity to be the Detroit Red Wings’ No. 1 netminder. Why such concern, such hand-wringing?

Because it’s NHL tradition. A true playoff team, a Stanley Cup contender, needs the stabilizing effect of an ironman in goal, right?

Didn’t the Vegas Golden Knights, the defending Stanley Cup champion, disprove the league’s conventional approach this past season? The Knights used five goalies during the regular season when they won 51 games and piled up 111 points en route to a Western Conference championship. In the postseason, two goalies — Laurent Brossoit and Adin Hill — led the Cup run. Logan Thompson, who had a team-high 37 starts in the regular season, missed the playoffs because of injury.

Brossoit got the nod to start the playoffs, then also was lost to injury eight games in, during a second-round series against Edmonton. Along came Hill, a career backup, first with Arizona and then San Jose, to finish the Knights’ dominant playoff surge — a 16-6 stretch that included a 4-1 series rout of the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final.

Detroit Red Wings should be patient with goaltending, not panicking.

Remind us, please, why the urgency to choose now an outright No. 1 from any of the Detroit Red Wings’ three goalies?

Granted, Husso has been so-so at best (3.65 goals-against average, .886 save percentage). Reimer, a journeyman with 14 NHL seasons, has been surprisingly good (2.30 GAA, .917 SV percentage). But his sample size is small — six starts with the Red Wings.

Lyon, of late, has been excellent, compiling a 1.61 GAA with a .947 SV percentage and a 4-1 record. Again, a small sample size.

With 14 starts, Husso has been coach Derek Lalonde’s No. 1, but the coach, fans, and media seem to have soured on the tall Finn, who, by the way, has played in just 127 NHL games in four seasons.

After the Red Wings blew a four-goal lead in a 6-5 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, Husso again faced criticism. Really, three of the four second-period goals against him were shorthanded (the third goal came as time expired on a Sharks penalty). And while, yes, one save in that outburst by the Sharks might have changed things for the Red Wings, which stop should Husso have come up with?

Exactly. The blame should be on those who played in front of Husso. Let’s again point out sloppy puck management and his teammates’ indifference to playing responsibly after going ahead 4-0.

Why can’t Lalonde rotate some, then perhaps settle on a hot goaltender? OK, there have been a few questionable goals allowed by Husso and Reimer. No doubt.

But Husso was excellent in a scoreless first period on Thursday when the Sharks clearly outplayed the Red Wings. Lyon also kept the Red Wings within reach on Tuesday night in Buffalo, a 5-3 triumph over the Sabres.

Lyon made some key stops in the opening period, again when the Red Wings were outplayed. Once up 4-0, the Red Wings showed their sloppy side, remember, relinquishing three straight goals, then holding on, thanks to Dylan Larkin’s empty-net goal?

There’s still time for the Red Wings to right their goaltending; the NHL trade deadline is March 8. So, patience is recommended. Why?

Each of the three candidates to claim No. 1 status has had good stretches in the NHL. And, so far, the Red Wings’ offensive firepower has been enough to cover any goaltending foibles.

Obviously, making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 is a priority. General manager Steve Yzerman doesn’t want to waste one of the Red Wings’ best starts in years. So there’s a little pressure, for sure.

But a bit of Detroit hockey history: In 1977-78, after missing the postseason for seven consecutive years, the Red Wings and first-year coach Bobby Kromm qualified for a shot at the Cup. Detroit finished second in the Norris with 78 points, one better than the Los Angeles Kings.

The Detroit goalies were Jimmy Rutherford (a team-high 20 victories) and Ron Low, with Eddie Giacomin, the one-time New York Rangers great, getting a few starts, too.

After a first-round best-of-three series win over the Atlanta Flames, the Red Wings were eliminated by eventual Cup champion Montreal in five games (4-1).

In the offseason, Kromm was sure upgrading in goal was a priority. He and GM Ted Lindsay signed restricted free agent Rogie Vachon, who had become a star with the Kings.

Except Vachon was damaged goods. Some reports said he had vision issues, perhaps from taking a shot to the mask the season before, and with the goaltender struggling, the 1978-79 Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs.

Kromm was fired. Lindsay was demoted to coach. Vachon was traded to Boston in the summer of 1980.

The Detroit Red Wings didn’t return to the postseason until 1983-84.

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