The Detroit Red Wings may have a goaltending controversy brewing. It’s tough to ignore the difference in quality of starts between Jonas Gustavsson and Jimmy Howard at this point. On paper it may seem silly to even mention that the No. 2 could even begin to push the No. 1 in the motor city, but the fact is that Howard is only on pace to win 21 games this season.
That’s not a good thing when he’s also projected to start 75 times.
Detroit is firmly in a wild card spot at the moment, but another seven game winless slide would change that. Howard might not be afforded the time and space to find his game that would usually be there because his backup has been so consistently outstanding. The Wings haven’t gone with Gustavsson very often, but they haven’t lost in regulation with him between the pipes yet.
Howard has allowed three or more goals 12 times this season, which is concerning since he’s started 18 times. That isn’t giving Detroit a chance to win often enough, and the team as a whole has struggled to provide enough offense to support Howard’s slump. Equally concerning has been the goalie’s inability to come up with clutch saves in overtime or during the shootout.
He’s lost six OT games.
Meanwhile, Gustavsson has a first star of the week to his credit this year and is 5-0-1. While his 2.35 GAA and .926 save percentage wouldn’t get “Monster” into an All-Star game, it could get him more starts for the Wings moving forward. Hockey is a results business and Howard just hasn’t been earning his cheddar lately.
It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Mike Babcock handles this situation. He’s never been shy about pulling the plug on players that aren’t performing well, but he’s never had to deal with Howard playing at such a low level.