Happy Labor Day, folks. Last week we started off our player previews by looking at the defense. We began with Ericsson/Commodore/Kindl on Monday, Stuart/Kronwall from Jeff on Wednesday, and Lidstrom/White by Graham on Friday. Now that we're done with the D, we're moving on to the goalies today before looking at the forwards from there on out. The Wings return two goalies who played for them last year in recently-extended Jimmy Howard as the starter and journeyman second backup Joey MacDonald. To replace the retiring Chris Osgood, Detroit brought back Ty Conklin, who spent the last two seasons in St. Louis.
Last Year's Benchmark: Detroit did not do well at keeping pucks out of their own net last season. As a whole, the Wings were 23rd in the league for GA/G at 2.89. The four goalies who played in the Wings' net (Howard, Osgood, MacDonald, and McCollum) combined for a team-total .908 save percentage. This was lower than the combined league average of .909. The three total Red Wings shutouts was the lowest amount since Osgood and Manny Legace combined for that many in the 2000-01 season. However, despite not being top-ten in any other category, Jimmy Howard tied for third place in wins with 37 (in fewer games than Cam Ward and Miikka Kiprusoff, the men who tied him).
Let's take a look at each of them for this upcoming season.
#31 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 07, 1980
|2010 - Joey MacDonald||15||721||5||5||31||2.58||372||341||.917||1|
The 31-year old native of Pictou, Novia Scotia enters his 11th year after leaving the Peterborough Petes to turn pro. Originally undrafted, MacDonald has played stints for the Red Wings, Bruins, Islanders, and Maple Leafs. After moving up from third-string to official backup for the injured Chris Osgood last season, MacDonald signed a two-year contract with Detroit during the summer. Year one of the contract is a two-way deal which pays him less at the AHL level and year two is one-way only (meaning he can still be sent down, but he can't be paid less than the NHL league minimum).
Strengths: Joey Mac has the perfect attitude for a backup goaltender. He realizes where he stands among NHL-caliber talent is tentative and he's willing to work to stay in the league. What's more is that he's absolutely fantastic at shutting the door in relief. In his six relief appearances, MacDonald had a .974 save percentage and a 0.68 GAA. In three of those appearances, his goaltending could be considered a factor which allowed the Wings to earn at least one point they otherwise wouldn't have.
Weaknesses: MacDonald's numbers as a starter were much worse than his relief numbers: .902 SV% and 3.29 GAA. Not exactly numbers which will set off a goaltending controversy. His form is usually technically sound, but he's simply not consistent about stopping pucks and controlling rebounds in a way that helps his team.
Expectations: No offense to MacDonald, because I really like his attitude, but I'm hoping he gets into zero games for the Wings this year. I expect him to help the development of the Griffins' young goalkeepers.
#29 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 30, 1976
|2010 - Ty Conklin||25||1285||8||8||69||3.22||582||513||.881||2|
Conklin is no stranger to the Red Wings, having played the 2008-09 season in Detroit alongside Chris Osgood, convincing some that he should have taken the starting duties for the playoffs that year. Having also played for Edmonton, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, I'm contractually obligated to say something about his relationship with outdoor hockey games. I don't want to though, so tough shit. Conklin had an absolutely horrible season last year for the Blues, posting a .881 SV% and 3.21 GAA in 25 games. This dropped his offseason stock significantly, and he found himself back with Detroit for $750K (almost a 50% pay cut).
Strengths: Goaltending is at least 130% mental in the NHL and goaltenders are completely mental to begin with. Still, Conklin has a good head on his shoulders. He's confident in his abilities, he reads plays well, and he's good at turning easy rebounds to his own players.
Weaknesses: Every goalie in the league would be a Marty Brodeur if he could do his thing consistently. Unfortunately, the difference between backup and superstar is just that, consistency. He tends to lose his posts at times and get beaten high.
Expectations: As the backup behind what's more than a competent defense, Conklin should get in 20-30 games this season. That's no small stretch of games. The backup shouldn't have to steal any games for the team in front of him (although it would be nice), but he's also going to be expected not to lose any for them either.
#35 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 26, 1984
|2010 - Jimmy Howard||63||3615||37||17||168||2.79||1830||1662||.908||2|
The Calder runner-up from his rookie season came back to Earth last year in a way that had people saying "sophomore slump". While I think people who so easily use that phrase are lazy, there's no doubt that Wings fans would rather have the guy who posted a .924 SV% on his way to taking over the starting goalie spot than the guy who had already earned the spot and stopped only .908. Before becoming a free agent, Howard signed a two-year extension with Detroit worth a total of $4.5M.
Strengths: Howard's growth as a technical goaltender under coach Jim Bedard has been incredible since his first NHL games in 2005-06. He stands tall in his crease, aggressively attacks angles, moves side-to-side very well, and can make strong acrobatic saves. His confidence in his defense to cover the parts that he can't has grown by leaps-and-bounds.
Weaknesses: The drawback of a six-foot tall goaltender looking that much bigger on his angles is that he has to abandon other angles to get that big. Sometimes he trusts his defense too much and expects them to cover angles they really shouldn't have to. This can lead to some insanely easy tap-in goals with him sitting on the ice confused about the piano that just got dropped on him.
Expectations: 63 GP in his rookie season was too much and 63 last year was just right. I'd expect him to stay in about the same range. He's ready for that kind of workload. Still, I expect better numbers from him. His CSSI rating last year was less than halfway between "acceptable" and "pretty good" and I want him way above that line for the coming season. I don't care about shutout numbers, but I want his SV% above .915.
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Your Detroit Red Wings goalies, ladies and Gentlemen. We've got a starter looking to bounce back, a backup looking to get back on track, and a third-stringer committed to keep working for his dream to stay in the NHL. Stay tuned, as we start work on the forwards on Wednesday.