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December 5, 2013
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Dallas did the honors yesterday, blanking those filthy Red Wings 1-0 in the Lone Star State behind 28 saves from Marty Turco. Detroit is 0-5-1 in its last six, with the solitary point coming in a 3-2 overtime loss at Toronto. Sure, the Wings had won eight in a row before the current slide, and they still sit atop the NHL standings with an ungodly 41-15-5 record, but things are definitely looking up.
Even the dynamic duo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk hasn't been enough to stem the tide. Zetterberg is goalless in five. Datsyuk has just one assist in six. Mike Babcock has split the pair recently, skating Zetterberg with Valtteri Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson, while Datsyuk's been working with Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom. Really? Filppula? Samuelsson? Franzen? And you want to be my latex salesman?
Goaltending, or lack thereof, has played a major role in Detroit's struggles. After a ridiculous first half, Chris Osgood has come back to reality, going 1-4-0 with a 4.42 goals-against average and a .810 save percentage in February. Now that's the Chris Osgood I know and love! He's so bad, he's terrible.
My theory is Osgood was somehow hypnotized into thinking he was a good goaltender. It's like that "Perfect Strangers" episode where Balki accidentally gets hypnotized into thinking he's Elvis. Just looking at Osgood makes me hungry for a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Dominik Hasek has watched most of the carnage from the shelf. He's out with a nasty case of decrepit. With nowhere else to turn, Detroit went with Jimmy Howard against the Stars. It was the 23-year-old's first start since December 13, 2005. He came through like a champ, though, making 30 saves and giving the Wings a chance to win. But they didn't. Aw, that's a shame.
But I gotta tell ya, I didn't like what I saw from Howard. He was way too good. He looked big in net, moved well, and stayed square to the shooter. What a jerk. Here's hoping Hasek's "hip flexor" heals soon. I don't need Howard making anymore starts.
Long considered Detroit's goaltender of the future, Howard all but fell off the map the past few seasons, toiling in Grand Rapids while the Wings kept rolling with Old and Older in net. He was 17-19-2 with a 2.61 goals-against and a .914 save percentage for the Griffins this season, but he's been brilliant since his recall, stopping 95% of his shots in 137 minutes of action.
Thanks to phenoms like Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price, and Steve Bernier, if goaltenders aren't courting NHL stardom by the time they're 21, they're often considered a bust. That's just silly. Fans expect too much too soon from these kids. Goaltending is far more mental than physical. It takes time. Howard's best days are still ahead. And I don't like it.
The Red Wings have no hope of winning a Stanley Cup with Hasek and Osgood. I find it hard to believe Ken Holland and Babcock haven't come to that same conclusion. But if for some reason they're still ignorant, I don't need Howard reminding them what real goaltending looks like. My worst fear is Hasek's injury will linger, Osgood will keep playing like Osgood, and Holland and Babcock will come to their senses.
Young players only need a chance. Let's make sure Howard doesn't get his. I'll pay for his bus ticket back to Grand Rapids. Just get him the hell out of Detroit. Please.
Even if Howard goes all Cam Ward on us, I don't see this Detroit squad making it out of the West. They're still too small and too soft. Holland has said he probably won't make any significant moves at the trade deadline. He got burned last year when he sent prospect Shawn Matthias to Florida for Todd Bertuzzi, so he could be gun shy this time around. But a few more losses this week could change his mind.
The Dallas defeat kicked off a five-game road trip for the Wings. They'll be in Colorado tonight before heading to Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver, with only the Canucks game coming after the deadline.
As much as I'd like to see Detroit's losing skid stretch to nine games, it might be better if it ended against the Avs. Too many losses could prompt the Wings to do something foolish, like trade for a rugged winger, a legit No. 2 center, and a blueliner or two.
No, it would be much better for everyone if the deadline passed quietly and our boy Howard was shipped back to the A. Let's make it happen.