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Is It Time to Look at Joe Howe?

Arguably two out of the three top American goalies under the age of 20 faced off against each other this weekend in St. Cloud. That's pretty significant since the World Juniors is a couple weeks away, and things are starting to look less cut-and-dried than they have for the better part of two years now.

Joe Howe wasn't significantly better than Mike Lee this past weekend. Howe allowed 5 goals on 56 shots(a .911 save percentage) while Lee allowed 8 goals on 71(.887 save percentage). But it continued a trend of Howe putting up solid, consistent numbers, and Lee's numbers declining because of some soft goals.

On the season, Lee's save percentage has dropped to a fairly average .909, while Howe is 10th nationally with a .926 percentage. With goals against average, again, Lee is fairly pedestrian at 2.63 while Howe is 15th nationally at 2.21. Most disturbing for Lee is that all of his good games seem to be against weak teams, except nice performances against Wisconsin and Miami, and all of his bad games seem to come against good teams.

That said, there is a difference in the teams playing in front of each goalie. A big reason why Colorado College has surprised everyone this year is that while their defensemen are unheralded, they've played tremendously solid defensive hockey and don't make a lot of mistakes. Lee doesn't have the best defense in front of him, but his issues are more about giving up soft goals from weird angles than being consistently left out to dry.

It's nothing personal against Lee, but in a short tournament, a hot goalie can carry a team, and one or two soft goals can crush a good team's hopes. At the very least, it's probably worth inviting Howe along to Grand Forks with Lee and Jack Campbell and giving him the opportunity to compete for a spot. Howe may not be the best US goalie, but he could end up being the right goalie.