March 19, 2012; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) drinks from a water bottle during the second period against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Howard And Gustavsson Must Carry Load For Wings

The pressure is on Detroit’s goaltending tandem to perform like never before.

Traditionally, Ken Holland’s formula for success during his tenure as GM of the Red Wings has been to spend big dollars on a high quality defense that will insulate average goaltending.

And boy did he try.

Holland worked feverishly in a desperate attempt to lure the most sought after defensive commodity on the market to join the Red Wings.

Yet, almost $100 million dollars of Mr. Illitch’s money was not enough to make the deal happen.

And now the Red Wings are in a serious bind.

Detroit no longer has the best defenseman on the planet, nowhere close to it.  Niklas Kronwall is the most elite defenseman on Mike Babcock’s game sheet, but he isn’t even in the top five best NHL d-men conversation.

To make matters worse, Mr. Reliable himself, Brad Stuart, bolted for San Jose during the off-season.

So, here are my current potential Red Wing defensive pairings, and let me warn you it’s not a pretty sight:

Kronwall/White
Ericsson/Quincey
Colaiacovo/Smith

Kindl

This group is the antithesis of insulation.

If you’re still unsure about Detroit’s predicament, let me put things in perspective.

Last season (with Nicklas Lidstrom on the roster) the trio of Jimmy Howard, Ty Conklin, and Joey MacDonald struggled, combining for a 2.52 G.A.A. and a .905 Save Percentage collectively.

If you want to make sense of these numbers, consider that in 2007-2008 Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood won the Jennings Trophy with a combined 2.12 G.A.A. and .908 Save Percentage.

But, with the state of the Red Wings’ defense it will be next to impossible for Jimmy Howard and newcomer Jonas Gustavsson to put up similar numbers.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that if Howard and Gustavsson don’t post godly numbers then Detroit’s record of 21 consecutive playoff appearances may come to a screeching halt.

The pressure on Red Wing goaltending to perform is unlike anything Detroit has faced since the pre-Lidstrom Dead Wings era of the 1980’s.

Goaltending Coach Jim Bedard now has the most important job within the organization because in Detroit one thing is certain; the Wings playoff aspirations begin and end in goal.

Tags: Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard Jonas Gustavsson

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