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Abel to Yzerman

Jimmy Howard Has To Be At His Best If The Wings Have Any Playoff Hopes

from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,

“We’ve been accustomed around here to having real good goaltending from Howie,” Babcock said, “and we need him to be as good as he’s ever been down the stretch just because the depth of our lineup is different than it’s been.”

It’s no secret this hasn’t been Howard’s year — he was so subpar in November, it turned out to be beneficial when he suffered a fluke knee injury during a practice in early December in Tampa Bay. Howard used the layoff to recalibrate.

“The thing is, you can’t go out there and you can’t force things,” he said. “That’s what I tried to do earlier in the year, is really try to force the issue. Really what ended up happening was I had to take a step back and rethink things.

“It’s been a pretty topsy-turvy season, but I’m just trying to keep a positive mind frame. I have a lot of confidence in myself. Personally, I like this time of year because I find out what I’m made of.”


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Jimmy seems to be a bit of a head case sometimes. He seems like he really struggles for stretches. I think he gets on these downward spirals where he gets bad luck or whatever and loses a bunch of games and he panics.

Look at how he was playing when it looked like he was playing his way off Team USA. He seemed like that was weighing heavily on him. Like it was that big of a deal to be the #3 goalie on the team…

It reminds me of Osgood’s 2008-2009 season. Everyone was talking about whether Ozzie was a hall of famer and he thought his 3rd Cup and nearly 400 wins were more than enough. I think Ozzie was too aware of those types of things and not focused on hockey. And he handled it as well as Bill Buckner handled ground balls in the 1986 World Series.

With the Team USA crap this year and the mounting losses, it just seems like Jimmy can’t handle it. This team isn’t very good and has had crappy rosters for a number of games this year. But Jimmy has to be an “elite” goaltender and take the team through a stretch where he carries the team. He hasn’t done that. The other “elite” goaltenders - Rinne, Rask, Lundquist, Quick, Bobrovsky…these guys can put a team on their back and go a stretch where the team gives up like 10 goals in 6 or 7 games and wins 5 or 6. Jimmy has only had a handful of very strong performances this year and it isn’t enough.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 03/17/14 at 10:34 AM ET

NIVO's avatar

Agree completely on the notes above. These next two games are the two “games in hand” to get those four points. If we dont get the four, we are done right here. We cannot make the ground up. Beat Toronto tomorrow and then we’ll see about Pitt on Thursday. One at a time, but if you dont get two tomorrow somehow, someway then i’m gonna start looking at whats in the top 15 for the draft.

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 03/17/14 at 11:22 AM ET

shanetx's avatar

Every one of those goalies you (Vito) mentioned plays behind a vastly better defense than the one in front of Howard.  I’m not trying to make excuses for an overall mediocre season for Howard but the streaks you’d like to see probably won’t happen with this kind of cast in front of him.  That’s not to say Howard has been good enough; he clearly has not.  I think it’s very reasonable to expect another 3-5 “stolen” games per year.  But streaks tend to happen to teams that underperform and occasionally play to their level in front of a hot goalie.  This wings team isn’t underperforming; it’s just not a good team.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 03/17/14 at 11:30 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

Quincey was waived to make roster space for Lebda. Now he’s a second pairing on a D corps where he’s considered one of the better guys. Replacing Lidstrom by committee was a good idea, but only if all six could play at the same time.

Shanetx is right. This team just isn’t that good. They haven’t earned their spot in the postseason. There’s lots of valid reasons for that (injury, a hesitancy to move players, inadequate attention to the blueline), but in the end, the run is pretty much over.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 03/17/14 at 12:09 PM ET

Bill from GR's avatar

I agree with the statement, “this team just isn’t that good”.  But the corollary to that is, “Neither is the goalie”.

Howard’s stats rank him in the 40s compared to all other NHL goalies.  In a 30 team league, being the 45th, or so, best goalie is a prescription for disaster.  And that’s what we are seeing.

Howard’s numbers were never amazing in the AHL and they aren’t in the NHL.  His playoff numbers drop off from regular season numbers as well.  When the pressure rises (last minute of play in the period, third period, OT) his numbers get much worse.  Bottom line, IMO, he’s a good #2 NHL goalie, not one capable of handling a 60 to 65 game workload and lead a team in the playoffs.

He is the 3rd highest paid Wing on the roster, behind the injured Dats and Z, and that forces the responsibility on to his shoulders to carry this team.

Sadly, he is not capable of doing that, and our beleaguered roster must now find ways to score 4 or more goals per night to make up for this.  Equally sadly, they can not.  Very few teams could.

For $5.3M per year, I expect him to carry the team in time of need.  Hey, Howie, the team needs you NOW.

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 01:46 PM ET


That’s a nice assessment, Bill.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 03/17/14 at 03:32 PM ET

gowings's avatar

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 01:46 PM ET

Well said indeed

Posted by gowings from MTL on 03/17/14 at 03:35 PM ET


His playoff numbers drop off from regular season numbers as well.

Actually, according to reality his numbers in the regular season and playoffs are virtually the same.

I mean, you could argue that an elite goalie’s numbers should go up in the playoffs, but you can’t say they “drop off” in the playoffs.  Or rather, you could, but that wouldn’t be truthful.

Posted by Garth on 03/17/14 at 04:32 PM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

For $5.3M per year, I expect him to carry the team in time of need.  Hey, Howie, the team needs you NOW.

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 01:46 PM ET

I can never be accused of being a fan of Howard.  Everything you said, and then some.

Also, may as well make sure Blabcock shoulders his share of the blame as well. All things considered, I hope he can come up with a plan that gets us in the Playoffs.

  He did come up with a pretty good plan to win Gold. Just get us to 23, Uncle Mike. I’m not counting us out.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 03/17/14 at 04:49 PM ET

Gary A$$ SUCK !!'s avatar

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 01:46 PM ET

Exactly !!!

Posted by Gary A$$ SUCK !! from Fort Myers, Florida on 03/17/14 at 05:03 PM ET

SYF's avatar

“The two toughest jobs in Detroit are Lions quarterback and Red Wings goaltender…and not necessarily in that order.”

Step up, Jimmy.  Seriously.  Granted, the defense in front of him can do so much better, but ultimately, we gotta believe in the keeper to steal a few games.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 03/17/14 at 05:40 PM ET

Bill from GR's avatar

Howard’s AHL regular season numbers are GAA of 2.67 and SV% of .911.  His AHL playoff numbers are GAA of 2.74 and SV% of .888.

His regular season NHL numbers are GAA of 2.40 and SV% of .917 and his NHL playoff numbers are GAA of 2.57 and SV% of .918.

Some may consider those number virtually the same.  However, those numbers tell me he is statistically less worthy come playoff/crunch time, while winning/championship goalies raise their game.  Just sayin’.

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 05:43 PM ET

Bill from GR's avatar

SYF, you are right.  The defense HAS to be better.  Geez, can they get any worse?  Still, while they are floundering I’m expecting our $5.3M man to bail them out.

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 05:45 PM ET

Bill from GR's avatar

And you’re right about the two toughest jobs in Detroit.  That may not be fair, but that’s what they get paid for.

Posted by Bill from GR on 03/17/14 at 05:46 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Inevitably, the Peloton of Suck is fracturing and breaking up.  Carolina is for all purposes out of it, and Ottawa is as well, barring a 10 game winning streak.

That leaves the NJD, Detroit, and Capitals huffing and puffing to keep themselves a chance going down the last 5 or 6 games.  Detroit has won just one of four.

Remarkably, with 2 wins in the games in hand, Detroit could climb back into 8th.  Remarkably, Detroit can’t win 2 games in a row.  The vertical scale in the POS graph below is quite broad, for any team that could win a couple of games could make quite a leap.

POS 16 Mar 14

There is nothing magical about 92 points, except it’s been the magical number to jump into the #8 playoff spot in past years.  With now 6 of the 8 spots already being locked down by Division standings, only 2 / 8 can be garnered by a wild card team.  Note that Tampa Bay has more points than the Metro Division #s 2 and 3, yet has to get in by a wild card slot.  Detroit’s immediate rivals then, are in the Metro Division, NYR, Caps, CBJ, etc., unless Detroit goes on a major winning streak and catches up TB or TOR.  The 10 game moving average chart for the season demonstrates that they have not done that all year.

mov avg WINGS 16 Mar 14

Posted by RWBill on 03/17/14 at 05:47 PM ET

SYF's avatar

The 10 game moving average chart for the season demonstrates that they have not done that all year.

And that’s the watch the brass keeps an eye on.  Ten-game snapshots to evaluate their season’s progress.  I remember Holland talking about that a few years ago.  Win 6 or 7 of 10 games every ten games and they should be all right to get into the playoffs.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 03/17/14 at 05:55 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Jimmy has only had a handful of very strong performances this year and it isn’t enough.

Howard is not having his best year, but neither is the defense in front of him. He is a solid goaltender, but not yet elite. Maybe someday.

Posted by bigfrog on 03/17/14 at 07:45 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Until Jimmy gets 2 or 3 new d-men in front of him, there’s not a goalie alive or dead that could succeed w/ that group.

Posted by Primis on 03/17/14 at 09:59 PM ET

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com