Even with all of his postseason success, it's worth asking if the performance of 2003 second-round pick Jimmy Howard is starting to push Osgood to the bench in the Motor City.
Howard was in the crease for the fifth time in six games on Wednesday night, stopping 25 of 26 shots in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. He's not only been playing quite a bit lately, he's also been playing extremely well, posting a save percentage north of .920 over the last two months. Osgood, meanwhile, hasn't won a game in over a month, losing five consecutive decisions dating back to Nov. 5.
To start, let's take a look at how each player is performing when facing shots from each part of the defensive zone. The one thing that stood out to me when researching this was how remarkably consistent the Wings have been in terms of where they give up shots from, regardless of who the goaltender is. For example, they appear to give up almost no shots from the along the left wing boards.
Let's begin by taking a look at Osgood's shot chart and his save percentage from each spot in the defensive zone.
While the raw shot totals in these areas are similar, it's worth noting that even though Osgood has started two more games this season, Howard has actually played more minutes due to Osgood being lifted twice, including a disastrous seven-minute effort against Vancouver back on Oct. 27.
In terms of shots-per-minute, Howard faces more shots when you look at all of the areas in the defensive zone combined (.469 for Howard, .441 for Osgood), but Osgood faces slightly more in the area in front of the crease. Does this mean the Wings are playing tighter defense for Howard, and doing a better job of limiting chances near the crease when he is in net?
Maybe, but probably not, simply because the difference (.103 for Howard, .106 for Osgood) isn't quite that large.
The one question with Howard is that we're talking about a small sampling of games. Coming into this season he had started just seven games in the NHL, and now only 14 this season. So we still don't know just how good he really is, or what Detroit has with him.
Still, it appears as if the Wings are going to continue to ride him while he's hot, as head coach Mike Babcock suggested after Wednesday's game that Howard could start Friday's game when Detroit hosts Anaheim in a rematch of last year's Western Conference semifinal.