There is no goaltending controversy boiling behind the scenes for the Detroit Red Wings. Head coach Mike Babcock has made that very clear. Jimmy Howard had a ridiculously “off” month in November though, and only managed to pull down a two victories in nine starts. He won on November 1 and didn’t secure another win until November 29.
Meanwhile, No. 2 guy Jonas Gustavsson has continued to play very well in his spot starts. That trend continued today as the Red Wings downed the Ottawa Senators by a 4-2 final.
That pushes his record to 7-0-1 on the season and it’s at least giving Babcock something to think about as the calendar rolls from November to December. Howard was strong in his last outing as he shutout the New York Islanders, and if both players can find their top forms then the Wings could be a tough out for the remainder of the season.
Detroit has seen firsthand how important having a fresh No. 1 goalie is during the post season. They faced a mid-season form Corey Crawford in the postseason last year and his energy level was a key for the Chicago Blackhawks as they erased a 3-1 series deficit against Detroit before storming for another Stanley Cup.
Ray Emery was strong behind Crawford all season long, but there was never any question about who the man was in Chicago. It seems to be the same kind of situation this year for Detroit.
Babcock spoke to Ansar Khan of MLive.com a few days ago and made it very clear who his starter was:
It hasn’t gone as good as Howie would like. Let’s be clear about this: We’re going as far as Howie takes us.