The hockey season is slowly but surely approaching and that means one thing--season previews will start overflowing! Of course, we're going to be doing just that over the next few weeks and hopefully we'll be able to offer some good insight while creating some excitement for the upcoming season. We'll be starting our previews today with the goaltending and work our way out and up the ice through the coming weeks, previewing two players a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
2009-2010 was seemingly the beginning of a transition period for the Red Wings in net. Chris Osgood was expected to take the bulk of the workload for Detroit as rookie Jimmy Howard adjusted to the NHL after spending years in the AHL with the Red Wings' affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. But, as with a lot of things, what is expected to happen and what actually happens are two entirely different things. Osgood began to struggle in net, giving up soft goals and falling out of favor with the coaching staff with the poor performance. Howard began making positive moves after an early struggle and he ended up the Red Wings stalwart in net down the stretch heading into the playoffs.
But that was all last year and the dawning of a new season spells a potentially different future for the Red Wings in net. Will Osgood bounce back from last season's play? Will Jimmy Howard continue his success from last season?
Join us after the jump for the preview of the 2010-2011 season in net for Detroit.
2009-2010 was Jimmy Howard's "rookie" season. He had spent four years in Grand Rapids, developing his skills and sparingly getting games in Detroit as a call-up. Last season was the time for him to make the jump and he did so with flying colors, earning a nomination for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie. Howard became a fan favorite with his level of play over the last few months of the season. From January on, the Red Wings were Howard's team and it's odd that Chris Osgood was an afterthought--starting 39 of the last 42 season games. He played well as the season went on and well in the playoffs but was left out to dry by the tiring defense
Strengths: At the beginning of last season, Howard had some problem areas that made things look a little bleak for the season. He quickly remedied those areas and as his confidence grew, he became a better netminder. When Howard is playing confidently, he's a very tough guy to beat. He has a quick glove hand and is quick to the ice with his pads. He plays angles pretty well and follows the puck well
Weaknesses: Howard's biggest problem area was giving up rebounds. Too often for many Detroit fans' peace of mind, Howard would give up juicy rebounds. Luckily, the rebounds went to the places that his surrounding defensemen could clear the puck. If teams crash the net on Howard and seek out those rebounds it could come back to bite him. The second problem that Howard had was the shootout, seven losses coming by way of shootout. Granted, sometimes he was the victim of the Detroit shooters not capitalizing but he struggled with the shootout, saving 68.5% of shootout attempts (well below that of other starting goalies).
Expectations: Barring any unforeseen events, Howard will again be the leader for games played in net for Detroit and will be a big bonus for this team. He's shown that he can handle pressure and is capable of performing at the NHL level. Howard should win around 35 games at the least (assuming the team stays healthy) and the GAA should stay around the 2.3 range. In all honesty, I think Howard has the potential to be better than he was last year and could be a candidate for the Vezina Trophy this year.
Osgood had a bit of odd year in 2009-2010. He played very few games compared to his past seasons and he had to take on a different role as Jimmy Howard's mentor instead of the starting goaltender. That role transition eventually led to Osgood speaking out and drawing the ire of some Red Wings fans for the negative attention he was drawing (Rule #6: Do not sit in the corner and sulk. It draws attention in a negative way. Draw attention to yourself, but on your own terms). Osgood then took the new role in a better light and began to be a positive influence for those around him. The biggest question for Osgood heading into this season is as to whether he will be able to bounce back and provide solid backup work, or take the starting job should it fall back to him.
Strengths: Osgood does have the potential to play very strongly. He has shown in the past that he can be a great goalie but lately it's been the problem with consistency that has kept him from showing those old flashes of himself. He plays a very unorthodox style (not quite the same level as Hasek) so it's a little difficult to know what you'll get out of him but on the night's he is in the zone it's hard to beat him. He has good quickness on the ice and has the ability to withstand flurries of activity in his crease.
Weaknesses: Osgood had a lot of problems with consistency last year, giving up soft goals. Last year, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong for him did go wrong. He would go to the ice for the first shot on net and then attempt to get up as the next shot came on net (not the best idea). Osgood also had trouble handling the puck at times both out of his crease and with simple rebounds that dropped right in front of him.
Expectations: Osgood will likely be the second string goalie for the bulk of the season. He'll probably get more work this year as a way to keep Howard healthy but if the Wings are in a scrap for the playoffs again expect Howard to get the calls. Osgood should get about 12-15 wins this year if he gets the same amount of time as last year.