Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Defending Conklin, Red Wings

It's been a little while since I wrote about the Detroit Red Wings' progress, namely because it seemed like weeks were going by without them playing. Obviously the big breaks between games makes content a little thin over here, but I can assure you there are some irons in the fire in the near future for some articles not related to Detroit.

In the meantime, I feel like I have to address Detroit's recent ill fortune. After starting the season with five impressive wins, Detroit has fallen to Washington in a 7-1 laugher and a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. A little bit of controversy surrounds both of these games as the starting goaltender was...wait for it...Ty Conklin. Yes, that fellow who played in the first three outdoor games, including Detroit's 6-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He's had a rough couple of starts but I'm here to say everything is going to be alright for Ty.

At first everyone was impressed with Ty's shutout in the game against Colorado. It was a fine 29 save performance, no doubt. The follow up to Conklin's impressive showing was perhaps the most embarrassing loss I have ever seen Detroit suffer in the regular season since I became a hockey fan when I was about eight years old. Nothing went right. Not to pin it all on Conklin, but there were key moments where big saves needed to be made and it didn't happen. Needless to say it was an ugly game that made Conklin look like a buffoon. The next game for Conklin was a short-notice start against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. In lieu of Jimmy Howard and his wife bringing a brand new baby and future Detroit Red Wing legend into this world, Conklin was peppered with 31 shots, three of which went in. Not the worst performance but when your team can't muster more than a single goal, it's not good enough.

So two bad starts after one really good one leaves people wondering what the deal is in Detroit. The schedule is not going to get any easier this season and while I give all due credit to the Washington juggernaut, the game with the Blue Jackets should have gone better. I say this knowing that Columbus was very hungry for a win and the return of James Wisniewski was a huge boost to their team. The question some Wings fans may be wondering: is Ty Conklin going to be alright for us backing up Jimmy Howard? Is goaltending depth a concern?

Yes, he is. No, it is not.

To put it very succinctly, Ty Conklin is a good goaltender. He has yet to grab the brass ring and be the number one guy on a team, but I would argue he doesn't need to be as he puts up great numbers as the backup. He was 18-8 in Pittsburgh in '08 and he was 25-11 in Detroit in '09. He's still on a great team today in Detroit, so I think it's fair to say he should be able to perform to those levels should he need to.

Unfortunately, lots of people remember the infamous blunder in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006:

Apologies for the poor quality and apologies to any Oilers fans out there who still have a sore spot over that. The fallout from Conklin's Folly did irreparable damage to his time in Edmonton, but like a cat hurled from atop the dining room table, Conklin landed on his feet in Pittsburgh and continuum the momentum in Detroit. As a Red Wing, Conklin went 25-11 in 40 games with a 2.51 GAA and a .909 save percentage. His time in St. Louis was less pleasant, barely putting up a .500 win percentage and posting some really cruddy numbers. After two seasons in St. Louis, Conklin is back and that is where we are today.

Last time Conklin was here, he put up great numbers for a backup goaltender. I can't think of another backup kicking around the league right now who put up a strong showing strictly as the backup. Hopefully in the coming months we see more of this:

And less of the bad stuff we saw last week. As I said about Detroit's PP problems and faceoff struggles, it's no reason to be alarmed this early in the season, and in the end Detroit finds a way to continue to improve itself. Conklin's two bad games aren't cause for alarm. Yet.

Furthermore, I think that Joey MacDonald serving as our number three guy adds a level of security that Detroit lacked last year. I can sleep soundly at night knowing that if our top guy falls, our backup Ty Conklin can come in and do just fine.

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