The Detroit Red Wings need to lean on Alex Lyon in hopes of salvaging season

He started the season as the No. 3 goaltender, but the Detroit Red Wings need Alex Lyon to shoulder the load and play at a near elite level if they hope to right the ship.

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It's wild how quickly things can change in the NHL. Alex Lyon signed a two-year deal that averaged just $900,00 annually this past off-season to mentor top prospect Sebastian Cossa in Grand Rapids. Well, he never made it down to the AHL. Goaltending is at a premium in the league these days, more than it has been in the past, and Steve Yzerman elected to roster three netminders to assure they wouldn't lose one to waivers. If you recall, Detroit's division rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning, lost star netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy to injury for an extended period to begin the year. Yzerman didn't want to gift his old employer a bridge goaltender on waivers.

The Detroit Red Wings are happy to see a wretched December end, going 3-9-1 to finish the month and head out on a West Coast trip, which hasn't been kind to the organization in years to begin 2024. It seems odd, but the Red Wings hadn't returned from a California trip with a winning record since 2016, when they went 2-1. Oddly enough, 2016 was the last time Detroit qualified for the postseason. Detroit will begin on Tuesday night in San Jose against the Sharks, who have lost eight games in a row, then travel to Los Angeles and Anaheim. The Red Wings need to find a way to take two of three on this trip and should lean on Lyon to do so.

The Detroit Red Wings need to lean on Alex Lyon as they hope to fix their defensive and goaltending woes.

Lyon, 31, has only made nine starts heading into Tuesday's contest in San Jose, but he's quickly proved to be Detroit's best option in the cage. He's posted a 5-4-0 record backed by a .920 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average. He's also recorded one shutout on the season. Lyon is coming off of back-to-back solid starts, making 33 saves in a victory over the Nashville Predators despite allowing four goals, followed by 19 saves in a loss to the Boston Bruins at home on New Year's Eve.

Detroit hasn't gotten consistent play from James Reimer, or Ville Husso, for that matter. Before being injured, Husso had been showing signs of finally breaking out of a lengthy slump, but after being sidelined for an extended period, there is no telling how rusty he may be once he's finally healthy enough to return. It's starting to feel as though the balance of the season is beginning to weigh on whether Lyon can become a workhorse for the first time in his career. Derek Lalonde needs to start Lyon at least two of every three games until he proves he can't handle the strenuous workload. Detroit doesn't have much room for error at the moment as they sit fifth in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the Lightning before Tuesday night's game.

Lyon's career-high starts in a single season is just 14, which came last season in Florida. As you know by now, Lyon willed the eighth-seeded Panthers into a postseason position last season, playing exclusively down the stretch. He also began the postseason as the starting goaltender, but as the Panthers sputtered in the first round, they turned to Sergei Bobrovsky, who quickly regained his Vezina-like form, helping them reach the Stanley Cup Finals.