Detroit Red Wings: Why Joey MacDonald Should Start While Jimmy Howard Heals

Brandon BurnettContributor IIIFebruary 7, 2012

MacDonald has exerted much more confidence between the pipes in recent games than his counterpart, Ty Conklin.
MacDonald has exerted much more confidence between the pipes in recent games than his counterpart, Ty Conklin.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Finding a temporary replacement for Detroit Red Wings' All-Star netminder Jimmy Howard, was not exactly what the franchise had in mind during the stretch run to the playoffs.

It still remains to be seen just how much time Howard may miss, but it's likely to fall somewhere in the range of two to six weeks, while the league's leading goaltender in wins heals from a broken right index finger.

It is possible the injury could cause the team to search for a backup goaltender among the league's trade-deadline sellers.

The question to be asked however, is do you really want Detroit crowding the crease with another goalie for what could be as little as five to six more games? Keep in mind that a broken finger is hardly an injury known to linger with pain after its expected healing time.

The Wings are slated to play their next six contests inside Joe Louis Arena. It's probably safe to assume the miraculous run of 17-straight home wins will come to a halt at some point during the next week, but the length of the record itself hints that any immediate panic could be overdoing things. The luxury of playing eight out of your next nine contests in your own building will certainly relieve some of the burden of replacing Howard.

With that said, I strongly believe the trade-deadline focus should remain pointed at depth on defense. But even if that were to happen, a solution to the goaltending issue must still be solved. While Ty Conklin was brought back to Detroit to serve as Howard's primary backup, Joey MacDonald should be the goalie getting the nod in Howard's absence.

Aside from a shutout to begin his season, Conklin's performance has been shaky, at best. His concerns in the crease date back to last season, with the St. Louis Blues. His 3.40 goals against average in 11 games this year is even worse than the 3.22 GAA he carried in 25 games last season.



It's possible that a lack of consistent action plays a part in Conklin's performance, but hey, that's life as a backup.

MacDonald, on the contrary, has shown confidence and quickness since being called up from the AHL. MacDonald replaced Conklin in Saturday's game at Edmonton and managed to silence the suddenly powerful line—featuring the Wayne Gretzky-like Sam Gagner—long enough for the Red Wings to come away with an unexpected point. MacDonald made enough key saves to allow the Wings to fight back from a 3-1 deficit in which Conklin allowed all three goals in the first period.

MacDonald's confidence between the pipes dates back to last year as well. He started nine games and played in 15 total contests for the Wings, posting a 2.58 GAA and a .917 save percentage. Although the respectable statistics didn't translate to a ton of wins, I'm not confident there's a trade-deadline acquisition that will provide you with equal or greater numbers than those.

When push comes to shove, MacDonald is by all means serviceable as a temporary replacement for Jimmy Howard. He's clearly playing with more focus and confidence than his counterpart, Conklin.

With that said, I believe MacDonald should receive the bulk of the workload in Howard's absence, however long it may be. If you are going to add someone at the deadline, let it be a player who'll be of service not just leading up to, but throughout the playoff run as well.