Regner: Don’t forget ‘The Monster’

When starting goalie Jimmy Howard dealt with injuries and inconsistent play, Jonas Gustavsson (above) came to the Wings' rescue.

Robert Mayer/Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

What was once considered wishful thinking will soon become a reality.

In a week — or sooner — from now, the Detroit Red Wings will have made the NHL playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.

Given their injury woes, it will be heralded as quite an accomplishment, and many will be praised for their exceptional performances that kept the playoff streak intact.

But if it weren’t for the play of backup goalie Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson, there wouldn’t be a playoff celebration at all.

When starting goalie Jimmy Howard dealt with injuries and inconsistent play, Gustavsson came to the Wings’ rescue. Time after time, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound Gustavsson settled down a Wings team that was on the verge of a freefall.

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His 16-4-3 record, 2.55 goals-against average and .912 save percentage are incredible when you look at his numbers from last season — his first in Detroit. Battling injuries a year ago, Gustavsson appeared in only seven games and posted a 2-2-1 record, 2.92 goals-against average and .879 save percentage.

Heading into this year, backup goalie was a chief concern for the Red Wings. Gustavsson was aware that his spot on the Wings wasn’t a sure thing when he arrived at training camp back in September.

Red Wings coach  Mike Babcock even let it be known that if Gustavsson wasn’t up to the task, they would find somebody who was.  

Sensing that his NHL career was in jeopardy, Gustavsson hired a personal trainer last summer for the first time. His stamina has always been questioned, and the lanky netminder was determined to improve his endurance and overall physical fitness.

It worked, and all parties have benefited from Gustavsson’s commitment to get into better shape.

Out of the Wings’ six remaining regular-season games, they play back-to-back games twice, so Gustavsson will see some action before the playoffs begin.Based on what he’s done this season, it would be fitting to see him in net for the Wings’ playoff-clinching game.

Even if that doesn’t happen, his goaltending was a significant factor in getting them to that pinnacle.

Yes, his nickname is The Monster, but he’s been anything but scary in goal. In fact, he’s been Detroit’s saving grace.