Thursday, November 02, 2006

If Only They Could Get Some Goaltending

The best team defence so far this year has been that of the Detroit Red Wings. They have allowed only 21.3 shots per game. This is more than 4 shots better than the second place team (Tampa) and more than 6 shots better than the third place team (Vancouver). So far it has given them a decent 7-5 record (with one overtime loss) , but the haven't been able to capitalize on their super defensive play due to mediocre goaltending which leaves Detroit with a 2.33 GAA (good enough for sixth in the NHL).

Their defence is led by Nicklas Lidstrom who has been the best defender of the season so far and has had significant contribution from veterans Mathieu Schneider, Chris Chelios and Danny Markov as well as youngster Brent Lebda. The forward unit is defensively responsible as well and has Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby on their checking line (two guys who have been able to play internationally for Canada as checking forwards). It is very hard tp generate offensive chances against this group.

The problem is the goaltending has not been particularly wonderful. Dominik Hasek is back in Detroit after some time in Ottawa. He sports a .890 saves percentage so far and may still be getting back into the games (since he had been out since last February). He is backed up by Chris Osgood who has a 2.69 GAA and a .900 saves percentage in three games. In order to rest Hasek as his potential groin injury, Detroit is carrying a third goalie in Joey MacDonald, who has been overmatched in his one game (he came on in relief of Osgood) and sports a .867 saves percentage.

Last season, Hasek was playing at Vezina level before injuries ended his season. If Hasek can approach that level again, watch out for Detroit, they could emerge as the President's trophy winner again.

If I am Detroit the only thing two things I care about is 1) Making the playoffs and 2) Having Hasek healthy and playing well come playoff time. I wouldn't care less whether I finished first or 8th. That said, don't be surprised if they try to make another pitch for Biron if Hasek doesn't improve his game.
Dave's on the money. Making the playoffs is the key, and keeping Hasek healthy is the ultimate goal. He's started slowly but his GAA is still a reasonably good 2.21. Save percentage (more telling of the two stats in my book) is mediocre.

We're hoping he's getting the kinks out...not unreasonable since he's a traditionally slow starter.

In '02, Hasek didn't steal too many games. He was facing the same type of shot totals (usually no more than 20/game) and didn't have to be great, just steady.

This year, the time will come where he has to be great. Our offense can't carry us anymore. As you point out, the d is well above average, but we'll need more scoring and an occasionally spectacular Hasek.
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