My, how the tables have turned. Last season, the Detroit Red Wings received tremendous play in goal from starter Ville Husso (for the majority of the season) and struggled to find any consistent play from their backups. This season, Husso has struggled early on, and James Reimer, the primary backup, has played exceptionally well.
So far, the Detroit Red Wings head coach has leaned on Husso seven times, and although he’s shown flashes of being the player he had been last season, especially early on and before joining the Red Wings, this season has been mostly disappointing. Husso, 28, is posting a subpar 3.28 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Last season, Husso started a career-high 56 games, going 26-22-7 with a 3.11 goals against average and a .896 save percentage.
Those numbers are not great, but they really took a dive late in the season when he clearly ran out of gas. This off-season, Husso elected to remain in North America to train and also mentioned that he was focused on returning to the Detroit Red Wings a lot more mentally and physically prepared to be the no. 1 goaltender. I will admit it’s still early, but we need to see a much more consistent Husso if head coach Derek Lalonde continues to start him two-thirds of the time. Detroit will need better-than-average goaltending if they expect to be in the playoff race next spring.
The Detroit Red Wings are getting elite-level goaltending from backup James Reimer.
As I described above, it’s early on in the season, and we need to be hopeful that Husso’s game doesn’t level off but improves; the same is likely regarding Reimer. It is implausible that Reimer will be able to maintain the elite numbers he’s provided the Red Wings through his first four starts. In those four starts, he’s posting a ridiculous .944 save percentage to go with a 1.52 goals-against average, yet he’s just 2-2 on the season. Reimer, 35, has enjoyed a very solid career, often splitting the cage. He’s never started more than 46 games in a season, and that number came just a couple of seasons ago at the age of 33 for the San Jose Sharks. That year, Reimer maintained a reliable .911 save percentage and a 2.90 goals-against average. While age isn’t in his favor, and his season numbers won’t be sustainable, he still might be Detroit’s best option in goal.
Lalonde recently spoke about how well Reimer played Thursday night against Florida.
"“He was excellent,” Lalonde said. “I felt a little of the first period shifted on them getting that first power play and getting some good looks on that — the save he made east-west on that was huge. His first period was huge. His numbers are going to be astronomical. It’s very unfortunate we didn’t give him any run support, some goals. He gives up one on four or five glorious grade-A’s; it’s unfortunate we couldn’t bail him out.”"
Lalonde, who has turned to Husso two games to Reimer’s one early this season, won’t commit to that same rotation past Saturday’s contest against Boston; Husso will start that game, and then Detroit’s head coach will reevaluate the situation. I mean, that isn’t news. Head coaches review the situation following every game, but unless Husso suddenly separates himself from Reimer, I would expect more of a 50/50 split moving forward.
What does that mean for Alex Lyon?
The Detroit Red Wings will need to make a decision on Lyon in the coming days, not weeks. It’s difficult to envision the organization carrying three netminders on their active roster without giving Lyon an opportunity to play. It will be difficult for the 30-year-old goaltender to remain sharp just practicing and then sitting in the pressbox game after game.
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With Husso’s early season struggles, I am somewhat surprised Lyon hasn’t gotten a chance to start. I would expect the Red Wings to send Lyon down to Grand Rapids very soon on a conditioning stint where he can play a few games yet not forced to be placed on waivers. Lyon did dress as a backup to Husso once this season but hasn’t seen any game action.