In a game with serious playoff implications for the Detroit Red Wings, Jonas Gustavsson made the difference in between the pipes. Gustavsson made 26 saves in the Red Wings’ 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning and positioned themselves comfortably into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Having to grind out points as the season concludes is rare for the Red Wings, who are usually fighting for one of the top seeds at this point in the season, not just trying to get into the postseason.
Gustavsson has made an argument that he should be the starting goalie if the Red Wings do end up making the playoffs with a record of 15-4-3. While Jimmy Howard might have gotten the stiffer competition during the regular season, Gustavsson has been solid when called upon.
Howard has been the man in Detroit for some time now, and while the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup years in the 1990s are mainly remembered for names like Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, goaltending was a huge piece of the recipe that brought home back-to-back cups.
With the way Gustavsson is playing, Howard better play with a chip on his shoulder in the playoffs and not get too comfortable if he begins to play poorly. Head coach Mike Babcock surely won’t be hesitant to pull Howard if things are looking shaky or he needs a spark from his team.
After watching the Columbus Blue Jackets win last night and jump two points ahead of the Red Wings in the standings on Saturday, Sunday’s game was crucial if the Wings wanted to stay in the playoff picture.
Gustavsson got the nod and he got the job done. With only eight games remaining in the regular season, it’ll be interesting to see how Babcock splits up the time between his two goaltenders.