Goaltending emerging as strength for Detroit Red Wings
Detroit – It was believed that the Red Wings goal would be a constant force field before the start of the season.
And after a few minor slips and dips – and an injury – that level of consistency is achieved.
It comes to a point where the Red Wings are likely to expect Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss to play through an elite game.
Which is not easy – but they keep doing it.
On Saturday it was Bernier’s turn, stopping a whopping 50 shots in a 2-1 loss to Dallas.
“He was excellent,” said coach Jeff Blashill.
Saturday’s 50 games were the first for a Wings goalkeeper since Jimmy Howard did so on January 7, 2010 in Los Angeles.
Bernier was the seventh Wings goalkeeper to ever score 50 saves in a game and joined a pretty impressive list: Howard, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Roger Crozier, Jimmy Rutherford and Roy Edwards.
Bernier could feel as the night progressed that pucks were good and extremely sharp.
“I know I’m in my game when I’m on top of the fold and see pucks from the start,” said Bernier. “They have some really good defenders who can get the puck through. They sure shot from everywhere tonight. “
Bernier appreciated the post-game praise and comments from teammates, but it didn’t take away the bad taste.
“They were happy for me, but for me it’s a way to get a win and I couldn’t,” said Bernier.
Bernier, who was an unrestricted free agent that summer, was considered one of General Manager Steve Yzerman’s best negotiating chips at close of trading.
But the Wings decided to keep Bernier – who got well shortly before the deadline after missing several weeks with a lower body injury – and it’s likely that the organization will sign him at some point.
With a 9-9-1 record, 3.02 goals against the average and a saving of 0.912 percent, Bernier is one of the best wings in the line-up for the second time in a row.
After a slow start, Greiss (6-15-7, 2.95 GAA, .904 SVS) has not lost any regulation time in its last six decisions (4-0-2).
Greiss stopped 43 shots from Dallas on Thursday as the Wings scored their only win in the four-game series 7-3.
“He certainly did a good job on the last stretch,” said Blashill. “(Thursday) was just as clean a game as he was. In that first period we played pretty well, it was pretty even and we gave up two real chances and he made big saves. Now you leave the period 3-0 (which the Wings did) and it could have been 2-1.
“That’s just the difference a goalkeeper can make.”
Might be defenders Dennis Cholowski make a statement that he’s ready for a full-time NHL job?
In his tenth game of the season on Saturday, Cholowski probably had one of his best, scored the wings’ only goal and was present with the puck.
“The last two games have been his best two,” said Blashill. “He really was in command of the puck. He was probably our best breakout guy and probably our best guy to transition to the neutral zone.
“He did a really good job.”
With forward Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, Frans Nielsen and Bobby Ryan All out of the line-up, the wings go through a difficult stretch while the season is running.
But Blashill makes no excuses and sees this as an opportunity for younger players to establish themselves.
“It’s been a tough run lately,” said Blashill. “It happens for a few years. Unfortunately we were met two years in a row. The importance of the injuries and where those players fit into your team definitely has a huge impact.
“A year ago we missed (Danny) DeKeyser basically for the whole season and that was a big loss. This year we missed Bert (Bertuzzi) for most of the year. Then you start dealing with the likes of Fabbs (Fabbri) and Larks and Bobby Ryan and Nielsen and it becomes a lot.
“But there is also a chance for the group to have the opportunity to play, to show what they are about. One thing that made our team successful this year is that we were that elite group of work ethic and competitiveness. It’s a calling card for our team and the guys got involved with it. “