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The Breakdown: Husso Makes Case To Be No. 1 With Win vs. Capitals

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DETROIT — Ville Husso’s consistently strong play is making the case that he should be the Detroit Red Wings’ No. 1 goaltender.

Husso posted a season-best 33 saves to lead the Red Wings to a 3-1 win against the Washington Capitals. That lowered his goals-against average to 2.17 and raised his save percentage to .934. He is 4-1-1 this season.

The Red Wings plan was to rotate goalies until someone seized the starting job. That time may soon be here. Husso has given up one or no goals in four of his six appearances this season.

But Detroit coach Derek Lalonde isn’t quite ready to commit to a No. 1.

“It’s hard to say,” Lalonde said. “Obviously, he’s played very well. (But) it doesn’t take a trained eye to see a difference in what the two goalies have faced. Unfortunately it’s just the way it’s played out. Nedo’s been put in some bad situations in those road games. I have to watch it back, get some feedback from Alex Westlund our goalie coach and make an evaluation decision for Saturday.”

Alex Nedeljkovic owns a 4.96 goals-against average and .871 save percentage. But he played in games when Detroit’s defense performed poorly.

Husso Calming Presence

Meanwhile, Husso is continuing to play like he did last season for the St. Louis Blues. The Red Wings acquired him in the offseason in a trade.

“He’s got a calm game,” Lalonde said. “I think he calms our team down. When we get running around in our zone a little bit he’ll eat a puck no rebound. Or, a puck looks dangerous through traffic and he sees it and he gloves it, or he blockers it to the corner. It gives us a calming feel. Obviously you sprinkle in a couple of those big saves and that’s why his numbers are where they’re at and the reason for the success we’ve had as a team when he’s been in net.

This strong defensive showing is important to the Red Wings because they were coming off their most lopsided performance of the season. They lost 8-3 to the surging Buffalo Sabres Monday.

Better D

Lalonde’s mandate this season seems to be to make the team more competitive through focused, simpler defensive play. The Red Wings played that way against the Capitals and Husso was strong when they had lapses.

“They played good, battled hard, blocked shots, made my night pretty easy,” Husso said. “Good kill at the end, too. Those are the things in the game you  don’t want to let in a goal there. The guys did a good job and big win.”

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The Red Wings killed a Capitals’ power play in the closing minutes of game.

Another important element of Detroit’s win was Andrew Copp scoring his first goal of the season. He was one of Steve Yzerman’s offseason free agent acquisitions. The Red Wings need some offensive production, although they brought in Copp was his all-around game.

The coaches had a unified message for Copp during his early-season offensive drought.

“Not to judge yourself on offense,” Lalonde said. “Some of his best hockey has been when he hasn’t produced points. A perfect example, you go back to that Minnesota game, he’s arguably our best player and I don’t think he had
a point, did he? I don’t know. Then he comes to Buffalo and I think he had at least one assist. But I guarantee you he would trade that performance. Offense will come when he plays the right way. When he does that, it’s what we need out of him. Tonight he was everything for us.

Facts and Observations

  1. Ovechkin scored his 786th career goal to tie Red Wings legend Gordie Howe’s record for most goals with one NHL team. It seems fitting that he would score it against Detroit
  2. Young Red Wings defenseman Gus Lindstrom has had some rough moments in the early going. He came into the game at -5. But in the third period, Lindstrom had Ovechkin breaking in on him with the puck. He won that battle with the game’s outcome still undecided. “We’re asking him to defend,” Lalonde said. “But just get in and compete. Obviously there’s a physical mismatch there, but his compete helps him win that. Those type of plays you want to build off of. The more you make plays like that it just adds up for a more complete game.”
  3. The Red Wings are now 4-1-1 at home. They play the New York Islanders at 1 p.m. at Little Caesars Arena. They scored a 2-1 win at home against the Minnesota Wild last week and then were routed by Buffalo on the road Monday. “It seems like every other game right now, so we’re going to try to right the ship a little bit on Saturday,” Copp said.
  4. With two points, Larkin (153-218-371 in 514 GP) passed Johan Franzen (187-183-370 in 602 GP) for 22nd place on the Red Wings’ all-time points list. The 153 goals allowed him to move ahead of Ray Sheppard for 23rd place on the team’s all-time goals list.
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