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Lessons learned: Goaltending

This is going to be part of a series of the season in review. Today, we'll look at the goaltending and some of the things that we learned, already knew, or didn't want to find out. We'll look back at the season preview and see if we're geniuses or bums.

2009 - Jimmy Howard 63 3740 37 15 141 2.26 1849 1708 .924 3
2009 - Chris Osgood 23 1252 7 9 63 3.02 561 498 .888 1

Season preview--strengths:

In net: Chris Osgood showed last season, the season before, and both playoff runs that he still has what it takes to be a top goalie. Yeah, sure he's had his spotty moments but that's the nature of the position. He still has the skills and Howard has shown enough in Grand Rapids to get the chance to split time. We could be witnessing the passing of the torch in the Motown net.

About the only things right in this was that A.) Osgood had spotty moments and B.) We saw the torch passing. More:

Chris Osgood was supposed to be the starter. That didn't pan out and almost immediately rookie netminder Jimmy Howard was thrust into an incredibly difficult situation. Howard initially struggled but as he got his feet under him he adapted to the game and emerged as a game changer for the Red Wings. Howard's big splash announcing his arrival as the goalie in Detroit came in a 51 save performance against the LA Kings in January. It was a prime example to the Detroit faithful that even when the defense played horribly in front of him he was capable of keeping the team in it. Howard was the season saver when you think about it. Oz was playing so inconsistently that Babcock had no choice but to go to the rookie and it paid of big. Now we can't say for sure that Osgood wouldn't have gotten us to the postseason but we can say definitively that Howard did.

Season preview--weaknesses:

In net: Last year, Osgood was backed up by a solid and proven netminder in Ty Conklin. This year, Jimmy Howard finally makes the move from Grand Rapids to Detroit but will it be a good run? The only reason I even speculate on this is because of his limited experience in the NHL. The former college stud waited his turn down in Grand Rapids and proved he was worthy to take the number 2 spot finally in Detroit. This is more of an uncertainty rather than a weakness in my opinion. The difference between the scorers AHL and the NHL is clear as day and it's hard to predict how a goalie will adjust. Hopefully, Howard will find the pace of the game very quickly because he will be called on often to fill in for Osgood to rest.

"But will it be a good run?" Yep. Calder Trophy consideration, top 5 in GAA/SV% and top 10 in wins. "It's hard to predict how a goalie will adjust" Horribly followed by much better followed by great followed by why in the hell was he still in Grand Rapids?! "Hopefully, Howard will find the pace...called on often to fill in for Osgood to rest" And by fill in while Oz rested I assure you, I meant start about 75% of the regular season and every game of the post-season. I swear, that's what I meant. Howard started more than 20 consecutive games in net for Detroit at one point and was a consistent performer--something that is rare from rookies usually.

For all the crap that Osgood caught in the regular season in terms of the complaining about playing time, he did provide solid guidance to the youngster Howard. Osgood made up for all of that by recognizing the situation and the needs of the team and trying to help out as much as possible without playing any minutes in the crease.

Howard's play was incredible this year to say the least. With the expectations that he'd win maybe 15 games or so in relief,the fact that he won 37 and carried the Wings to the playoffs while showing some spunk and leadership (see: Crosby, Sidney) is an indication of things to come. Is he the next Sawchuk? Not even close. But he is the goalie for the Red Wings heading forward and that's one less thing they'll have to worry about this off-season.