J-Mac or the Monster: Who Deserves the Backup Spot for the Detroit Red Wings?

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J-Mac or the Monster: Who Deserves the Backup Spot for the Detroit Red Wings?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Nowadays, the collective attention of the NHL is focused on the pressing issue of whether or not the league is repeating the 2004-05 season, or lack thereof.

On a more personal note, the Detroit Red Wings have been focused on what to do with the defense now that Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart are unavailable. However, this does not mean that other issues can be overlooked, one of which is who should be backing up Jimmy Howard?

It is believed that Jonas Gustavsson, affectionately named "The Monster" due to his size, was brought in to be the No. 2 man behind Howard. Gustavsson is certainly qualified to play the backup role, but what Joey MacDonald did last season while Howard was injured cannot be overlooked.

While the Red Wings were on their way to setting the record for most consecutive home wins, Howard was injured and J-Mac stepped in to keep the streak going...and he did just that. He was able to help the Wings the rest of the way to the record in Howard's absence.

In his 14 games played last season, MacDonald went 8-5-1, posting a 2.16 goals against average and .912 save percentage. While his numbers from last season are better than Gustavsson's, MacDonald is over four years older than Gustavsson. The two goalies also have something in common: they both played for the Toronto Maple Leafs right before coming to Detroit.

In his last season in a Maple Leafs sweater, MacDonald had a 3.20 goals against average and .892 save percentage. Gustavsson went 17-17-4 backstopping Toronto last season and had a 2.92 goals against average with a .902 save percentage. So if he is able to enjoy the same improvement in numbers that MacDonald did when he made the move, then he should post some respectable numbers this year.

Before he came to North America, The Monster enjoyed a phenomenal season in the Swedish Elite League during the 2008-09 season. He had the league's best goals against average at 1.96 and best save percentage at .932.

So while MacDonald may have the better numbers from last season, he also had the better defense in front of him and a lighter workload. Toronto was 29th in the league in goals against per game and 24th in shots against per game, whereas Detroit was seventh in goals against and third in shots against.

It's true that Detroit's defense is not close to what it was last year, but it should still be good enough to help Jonas Gustavsson have a good season as the No. 2 man behind Jimmy Howard.

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