Detroit Red Wings Goaltending May Be The Best Duo in Hockey, Really

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IMarch 25, 2010

CALGARY, CANADA - OCTOBER 31: Goaltender Chris Osgood #30 and back-up goaltender Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate after their game against the Calgary Flames on October 31, 2009 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Red Wings defeated the Flames 3-1. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

Alright, before we get into this, let me clarify a couple of things first in the hopes that people will actually read the article before posting flabbergasted responses to the headline.

1. I do not believe the Red Wings have the two best goalies in hockey.

2. I do not believe the Red Wings goalies represent the best statistical duo in the NHL.  That honor, amazingly, goes to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Paying careful attention to my wording here, you'll notice I assert that the Wings might have the best goal tending duo in the NHL.

A duo is a combination of two distinct things that, sometimes, are greater than the sum of their parts.

Like chocolate and peanut butter.

When I look at the combination of Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard, I see exactly that.

Red Wings fans expected two things from their goal tending at the start of the season: a delivery on the promise from Chris Osgood that his terrible 2008-09 regular season performance would not be repeated, and that Jimmy Howard might start about 25 games—so much for expectations.

Despite his promise, Chris Osgood has had another horrible season this year.  His goals-against average and save percentage are a hair better than last year's but at 2.97 and .890, respectively, are terrible nonetheless.

This left the Wings looking to Jimmy Howard to find a way to become a solid number one goalie in time to not totally doom their season.

This is the same Jimmy Howard who had been unable to crack the NHL line-up in his five years in the organization and was hardly a world-beater in the AHL.

Moving forward with a washed-up veteran and lack-luster rookie in net is usually a recipe for disaster for a hockey club.

However, in this case, the Red Wings have turned these two apparent negatives into one big positive.

Since Christmas, Jimmy Howard has been the undisputed starter and now, quite clearly, is the guy the Wings will have in net in the playoffs, provided they get there.

Speaking of that, the Wings have also acknowledge that, the only reason, yes, the only reason they're even in the playoff picture is Jimmy Howard.

Howard provided good enough goal tending in a long enough stretch for the Wings to finally get healthy and once again resemble the dominating team they've been for so many years.

But, though we'll never know, I'd bet Howard would not have meant so much to this team if he didn't have Chris Osgood as a teammate.

Being a rookie goalie in the NHL is perhaps one of the toughest jobs in the sport.

Being a goalie, rookie or otherwise, in Detroit is tougher still.

Who knows this better than Chris Osgood?

It's amazing when you think about it, but Jimmy Howard is the first goalie drafted by the Wings to assume the starter's role in the last 17 years.

The last guy to do this was Osgood.

After getting a little temper tantrum out of his system at the beginning of the year (Osgood publicly questioned head coach Mike Babcock's judgment in not starting him more and expressed his anger at being relegated to the pine), Chris Osgood has realized the amazing opportunity he has in front of him.

He has the chance to truly take his career full circle by starting as a rookie goalie in Detroit and ending it as a veteran mentor to the Wings next franchise net minder.

Like Tim Cheveldae and Mike Vernon did with him, Chris Osgood eventually embraced and began to enjoy his role as a mentor and pseudo-coach for Jimmy Howard.

This is as situation any team in the league would relish.

Think about it, if Marty Brodeur retired, or more unlikely, degenerated into a back-up goalie in New Jersey, wouldn't the team do anything it could to keep him around to usher in his rookie replacement?

In the entire world, there is one man who knows better than anyone what it's like to play net as a rookie for the Detroit Red Wings, who better to mentor Jimmy Howard then, than Chris Osgood?

Having a veteran mentor is one thing.  Having a veteran mentor who grew up in the same organization playing the very same position you now occupy is something else again.

This is not to take anything away from Jimmy Howard.

Howard has offered abundant proof that he has the skill, athleticism and mental toughness required to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.

But, all the skill and talent in the world cannot provide you with the knowledge necessary to balance an entire team on your back.

This kind of knowledge can only be imparted by someone who's been where you are and done what you're doing.

With Osgood behind him, Jimmy Howard is not only learning how to win this season, but building a solid foundation for an extended career as the Red Wings' No. 1 goalie.

Mark my words, Jimmy Howard is no flash in the pan.

Detroit GM Ken Holland will not be looking for a goalie over the summer, a luxury few teams enjoy.

In Osgood and Howard, Holland has the duo the Red Wings need to not only extend their playoff streak to 19 years, but many more beyond that.

This is not by accident.

Holland was a scout for the Wings when they drafted Osgood and took a personal interest in developing the young, fresh-faced goalie into Detroit's "goalie of the future".

He saw the value in having veterans mentor the young goalie and watched as Osgood developed into a bona fide starter.

So, when fans began calling on Holland to trade for a goalie earlier in the season, they should have realized Holland was seeing a bit further down the road than the rest of us.

The Red Wings have the best rookie goalie in the league and one of the most successful goalies of the past 20 years backing him up.

If that's not the goal tending equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate, I don't know what is.


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