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Babcock: ‘If we get good goaltending, we’re going to have an opportunity’

Apr 11, 2014, 1:17 PM EDT

Jimmy Howard AP

Despite being forced to deal with numerous injuries to star players, the Detroit Red Wings will participate in the playoffs for the 23rd straight time.

Today, coach Mike Babcock spoke about that accomplishment, and what it means going forward.

“What you’ve done it set yourself up with an opportunity,” Babcock said, per “The great thing about the playoffs in our league, you win one game of the two on the road when you’re the lower seed now you have home-ice advantage and everything you’ve done all year is all go. To me that’s what it’s about. It’s about putting pressure on the higher seed, finding a way to grind out wins. We’re going to need good goaltending out of [Jimmy Howard]. If we get good goaltending, we’re going to have an opportunity.”

That last part is worth expanding on. Because while Howard has been solid lately — he’s won his last four games with a combined save percentage of .929 — his overall save percentage of .910 ranks just 34th out of the NHL’s 49 regular goalies.

Now 30 years old, Howard earned a good deal of respect with his play last year. But it’s only fair to say he hasn’t played like an elite goalie this season. In fact, only Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec has played more minutes than Howard while stopping a lower percentage of shots.

Which is to say, Wings fans will be hoping it’s Howard’s most recent form that he brings into the playoffs, where Detroit will first face either Boston or Pittsburgh, two of the highest-scoring teams in the league.

  1. rbbbaron - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Overall Howard hasn’t been as good this season, but neither has the defense in front of him been giving him the support that Detroit goalies have been used to. A good way to improve the performance of the goaltending might be to cut down on all those give-aways and odd man rushes, which Howard has coincidentally done a pretty good job of stopping.

    • blomfeld - Apr 11, 2014 at 11:09 PM


      Sorry, but the bottom line is that Detroit is going nowhere but down …

  2. tmoore4075 - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    He’s been better recently so that gives me hope. He needs to do what he did last post-season then the team will be fine.

  3. erbaker67 - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    I think Howard has played great in crunch time. I know he was mediocre at best during the first 55-60 games in which he has played in but lately he has been making some great saves and not allowing a second chance opportunity. I don’t necessarily think that he is knocking his goaltending by his comments but more of a we don’t score as many goals as we used to so we rely on our goaltending more so than we did in seasons past.

    • erbaker67 - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      Since 2010-2011, they have gone from 3.13 gpg to 2.91, 2.54, and 2.66. Almost a half goal a game since 2010-2011 season.

  4. 13datsyuk13 - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    The wings don’t have to worry about the shootout anymore.

    • 101starmymedic - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM


  5. pwshrugged - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:04 PM


    The goaltending is perfectly fine and quite good, actually, when the kids aren’t turning the puck over right in front of Howard. Same thing as last year, basically, although I have noticed a considerable improvement in turnovers the last couple weeks during the playoff push.

  6. shoobiedoobin - Apr 11, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    This is a great example of stats vs eyes. Stats say he’s horrible this season but really, he’s not letting in many shots he shouldn’t. If he gets 3 scored on him in a game, typically 2 are from horrible Quincey/Smith turnovers or bad pinches. Or rebounds because Kronwall can’t clear the crease and a rebound goes in. Great defender, just not the best at that spot on the ice. Once Detroit gets rid of Quincey, fixes Smith or loses him, and replaces them with more defensively sound guys, watch-suddenly his stats will go back to normal.

    • pwshrugged - Apr 11, 2014 at 5:34 PM

      Quincey and Smith have gotten better; our biggest liability on defense now is Kindl, and he’s the odd man out once Ericsson is back, I’d wager.

      • rbbbaron - Apr 11, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        Smith has gotten better but is nonetheless still a liability, otherwise I agree that Kindl hasn’t been up to snuff (though I cut him some slack because he was injured while the rest of the team was coming into its own). Ericsson was relatively reliable until he got that big contract extension…

      • shoobiedoobin - Apr 11, 2014 at 6:05 PM

        They have gotten better. But they were for most of the season the biggest reason Howard got scored on. I like that they’ve improved but I don’t buy it until it’s long term. I’ve still seem all 3 make mistakes that previously they would’ve paid for, but the opposition didn’t capitalize.

      • shoobiedoobin - Apr 11, 2014 at 6:09 PM

        Ericsson was reliable until the extension? What Ericsson are you watching? The guy is lock down.

        It’s easy to point out when a star is a star, and a bum is a bum, but guys like Ericsson are a real barometer to determine who knows the game and who doesn’t. If you watch Ericsson and don’t see an intelligent, quick thinking lock down defender, you’re wrong.

      • rbbbaron - Apr 11, 2014 at 6:54 PM

        I was watching Jonathan Ericsson, # 52 of the Detroit Red Wings, who thru November was a cumulative +7 and was a cumulative -5 between then and his injury. The guy who over the course of the season boasts the lowest on-ice team save percentage of all Wings d-men save for Adam Almqvist. Which one were you watching? Anders?

        Otherwise you might want to resist talking like an authority on the subject.

      • pwshrugged - Apr 11, 2014 at 7:33 PM

        Ericsson’s fine. I don’t know why some Wings fans have it out for him, but he’s solid. I don’t think he’s a top-2 defenseman, but he’s a top-4 for sure. He’s big and plays his size well, which is something Babcock likes. The other thing to realize about Ericsson is that he’s very affordable for his skill – defensemen are the hot commodity these days, and Ericsson fills a spot on our blue line at a very reasonable price relative to the market.

        Kindl has really been disappointing out there. He looks like a forward a lot, caught flat-footed or turning the puck over. He has a great shot from the point, but he’s been below-average otherwise. It seems like over the past two weeks, whenever a groan-inducing turnover or goal occurs, either Kindl or Legwand are on the ice.

        Quincey and Kindl are the two potential odd-men out, to me. Quincey’s gotten better, but he’s not as good as his salary number (Quincey’s making $3.775M, Ericsson $3.225M according to capgeek). Amazingly, Kindl is costing us $2.4M per year. Quincey’s contract is up after this season; I could see the Wings letting him go. Next season starts with Kronner-Ericsson/DeKeyser-Smith/Kindl-Lashoff, with guys like Almqvist ready in Grand Rapids to leap at an opportunity.

        That said, I agree with some other posts – Howard’s much better than the numbers indicate. Put a seasoned defense in front of him, and he’ll put up top-5 goaltender numbers. The biggest thing about Howie is the simple fact that he lets very pucks through that he shouldn’t… eliminate the turnovers, and most teams aren’t scoring more than 2 on us.

      • rbbbaron - Apr 11, 2014 at 8:45 PM

        I’m guessing others aren’t too warm to Ericsson because he’s taken some untimely penalties and has otherwise not looked like a top-two guy despite being used like one.

        “Ericsson fills a spot on our blue line at a very reasonable price relative to the market.”
        He was reasonably priced, but that prices jumps up to 4.25mil and runs through 2020. A quick look around the market will show you that’s a cap hit .25mil below Dan Hamhuis, slightly below Jack Johnson (4.3mil), even with Shattenkirk and Vlasic, and higher than Victor Hedman (4mil) and Slava Voynov. Any of those guys could make for a legit no.2 blueliner on just about any team. I like Ericsson, but with that lovely new contract extension comes expectations and frankly he hasn’t made a good impression since the end of November.

      • pwshrugged - Apr 11, 2014 at 9:13 PM

        I’d still rather Ericsson than a lot of guys. He knows the system and fits the system and has the faith of the coaching. His play can be up-and-down at times, but the same can be said about any blue-liner in Detroit or otherwise; Kronwall himself has made some dubious plays this season. I find Quincey’s salary number somewhat less appealing than Ericsson’s.

        It should also be pointed out that the Wings are going to have a lot of cap space soon. With no massive long-term contracts weighing them down, and the sudden surge of youth, the Wings will be able to shed a lot of unrestricted veterans making several mil per year right now. They have room to give a guy like Ericsson – who has considerable upside and is a relatively safe risk – what he’s making. Let’s look at it this way – if our top-4 defensemen are Kronwall/Smith/DeKeyser/Ericsson for the next several years, we’ll be in better shape than most teams, and no one will be complaining about Ericsson’s cap number. Remember, the cap is going up each year going forward.

        I dunno. Just seems to me, as a lifelong Wings fan, that we’re in the middle of a significant changing of the guard; that said, it hasn’t compromised the playoff streak and it’s putting us in a good financial position relative to the cap. It’s really hard to find anything to grumble about looking ahead, if you ask me.

      • rbbbaron - Apr 11, 2014 at 10:03 PM

        “It should also be pointed out that the Wings are going to have a lot of cap space soon.” Not really– see bottom

        “With no massive long-term contracts weighing them down,” out of sight out of mind? (Weiss)

        “the Wings will be able to shed a lot of unrestricted veterans making several mil per year right now.” Yes, they should be able to, but unfortunately Holland has made a habit of bringing those veterans back or going out and bringing in new ones. That he’ll change his ways, well I’m not getting my hopes up.

        “Ericsson – who has considerable upside…” If your talking about potential, I have to disagree with you. He has developed nicely, but he’s been around long enough and I think he has pretty much reached his capacity.

        “…and no one will be complaining about Ericsson’s cap number.” I think the chance of people complaining about that number is greater than the chance that people will look at it like it’s a bargain.

        “Remember, the cap is going up each year going forward.” And so are the cap hits of those kids. Sheahan, Tatar, and most of all DeKeyser will be due for significant raises going into next season. The following year it will be at least Andersson, Jurco and Nyquist (together with any bridge contracts that Holland might have to resort to with the guys from the previous year). With Datysuk’s cap hit going up and Alfie’s bonus counting against next season, I wouldn’t expect a splashy 2014 offseason.

      • pwshrugged - Apr 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        After I posted my previous comment, I went to watch either the Tigers game and immediately thought of Weiss – he’s a burden, and as I’ve written previously, is the odd-man out in the projected future Wings lineup (best bets at center being Datsyuk / Sheahan / Helm / Glendening). However, outside of that signing, we’re in good shape – sure, we have Franzen locked up forever for some reason, but his cap hit per year is under $4M and, frankly, that’s not too bad. He’s a hot/cold guy, though, so it’ll always be a talking point, and he’s gonna stay colder longer as he ages.

        My concern with the Wings was that they wouldn’t have the money to lock up the youngsters – but they will, and plenty of it. I doubt they’ll make any splashes, either – they have no need to. The only place of real weakness is a lack of depth on defense, but they have guys coming up the ranks in Grand Rapids (Almqvist) who seem likely to contribute next year; I also expect Mrazek to be the full-time backup to Howard next year. The only major potential offseason/free agent moves I see the Wings making would be bringing back Alfredsson and possibly Quincey, and signing the kids to long-term deals. When all is said and done, they’ll still start the season with more cap space/flexibility than they’ve had since the cap was put in place, I’d think. I wouldn’t rule out some depth defensemen signings, though, depending on what the market looks like.

        As for Ericsson, my point is that for the Wings – better the commodity you know than the one you don’t. They know exactly what they’ll get with Ericsson, they seem satisfied with that, and he’s being paid relative market value for someone of his skill. It works. He’s not going anywhere. I should correct myself, though; I imagine next season, Ericsson drops to the 2nd defensive pairing with DeKeyser, with Smith remaining Kronwall’s partner. Ericsson may not be the bargain I initially thought he was, but he’s also not overpaid. It’s a similar thing with Val Filpulla, who many thought $5M/year was too much for – now that he’s with Tampa and we signed Weiss instead, I think Filpulla for $5M/year looks pretty good (not that the Wings NEED him, per se). Better the guy you know than the one you don’t. To be fair, though, I think Val needed to leave to truly flourish, but that’s a whole other discussion.

        I’d be surprised if the Wings don’t lock up all the kids this offseason. The money will be there, and I think they’ll all be cheaper this year than next.

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