Red Wings Schedule and Goaltending Quick Take: Having Two Goaltenders will be Key
We've talked a lot about the Red Wings' goaltending situation going into next year. The condensed version is that Petr Mrazek, the 23-year old Czech phenom making less than $750K against the cap and with one year left on his current deal (RFA) is the Red Wings' starting goaltender going forward. Jimmy Howard began last year with the job, but after injuring himself in January, Howard (age 31 with a cap hit just under $5.3M) never regained his form.
Kyle wrote about this a couple weeks ago, saying that Jimmy Howard's trade value isn't as high as his keep value. The crux of the argument is that even if Howard is the backup, he's more valuable in that position than the likely return the Wings would be able to get for him in a trade.
Now that the schedule has been released, this is more apparent than ever.
The Red Wings have 17 sets of back-to-back games and 11 sets of playing three games in four nights. Just taking the back-to-backs, that's 34 total games out of 82 where the Wings have either played the previous night or need to be ready to play the next night. That's 41% of the season. One out of every five games for the Red Wings will immediately follow another.
So why is this a big deal? Because goaltenders in the NHL do noticeably worse on the second night of back-to-backs than they do when given more rest.
In a more normal season, you might get away with saying that you can go a little weaker in backup and make up for it with the somewhat less-than-impressive haul you could get for Jimmy Howard on the trade market, but there is a large chunk of the Wings' season where having a guy give a starter-quality performance will earn much-needed standings points.
Besides, only four of those back-to-backs come after February. If you're going to weaken your backup goaltender position, the Wings could do that at the trade deadline after the bulk of his need is spent and when the demand for goaltending is highest.