Mike Babcock is doing it again.
Back in 2008, during the first round of the playoffs, goalie Dominik Hasek was having a devil of a time stopping the puck, specifically in Game 3 and 4 against Nashville. The Red Wings lost both games, losing a 2-0 series lead. The Predators were scoring in bunches, which is how they won the the two games in Nashville.
Babcock said that the “puck can’t keep going into the net,” and made what I thought was one of the gutsiest moves by a Detroit coach, and that was to replace Hasek with Chris Osgood for Game 5 and for however long the Red Wings would last in the playoffs.
The Red Wings went on to dispatch the Preds in six games and won the Stanley Cup—with Osgood in net.
Tomorrow night against the Bruins in Detroit, Babcock will go with backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson in goal for the second straight game instead of Jimmy Howard. Gustavsson was in net on Sunday in the Red Wings’ 3-1 win in Buffalo.
Babcock used a similar line after Howard’s latest loss—4-2 against Ottawa on Saturday.
“The puck’s going into the net,” Babcock said.
Howard, this season, has bore little resemblance to the confident goalie with swagger who stepped onto the ice with a chip on his shoulder. His numbers tell most of that story.
Howard is 5-7-6 with a 2.72 GAA and a .908 save percentage. Gustavsson, on the other hand, is 5-0-1 with a 2.35 and a .926.
“Let’s be clear, we’ll go as far as Howie takes us,” Babcock said, as reported by the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan. “He’s an elite goalie who it hasn’t gone as good as he’d like to lately. We’ll give him a breather to work with Jimmy (Bedard, Red Wings goaltender coach).”
And as for Gustavsson?
“You can’t ask from your second goaltender more than we’ve got from him,” Babcock said.
Howard seems to know what the problem is, even if fixing it is far more complicated.
“Maybe I put a little too much on my plate, and for me personally, I just to have concentrate on going out and stopping pucks,” Howard said. “(I’ve been) trying to go out there and trying to make everything look great when all you have to do is keep the puck out of the net.”
For more about Howard’s struggles this season, go here for something from the Winged Wheeler and here for something from Bleacher Report’s Matt Hutter.