The 2012-13 season was an absolute nightmare for Jonas Gustavsson. He’d been given an outstanding opportunity with the Detroit Red Wings after flaming out badly within the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, signing there as a free agent as the Wings sorely needed a backup capable of confidently playing more than 20 games in a season.
Injuries totally derailed Gustavsson’s season though, and the woes continued to pile on as Monster was injured in the preseason and unable to play for the Wings once again. More of the same from Gustavsson, and you could have forgiven Detroit for giving up on him entirely.
Ironically, it was another injury that opened the door for the towering Swede to come in and win three consecutive games for the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard has been on the shelf since October 12, when a shot bruised his hand against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, Monster has been the unlikely hero for Detroit early on this season.
Because of Gustavsson’s outstanding play, Howard has been able to heal properly. He’ll eventually come back 100% and continue to win games for the Wings, but the emergence of a true, rock-solid No. 2 netminder gives Detroit an outstanding weapon moving forward.
Being able to rest Howard heading into the playoffs is paramount for a team that seemed to punch out a bit against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round last year.
Now Detroit does have a guy that could see upwards of 30 contests while Howard remains fresh. Through three games, Gustavsson has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s been strong in his movements, controlled out on the ice and poised with his saves. His 1.67 GAA is eye-popping, and his .953 save percentage is outstanding.
At this point, Detroit is likely urging Howard to take all the time he needs to come back. Gustavsson is taking the Wings exactly where they want to go for the time being.