The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/05/11 at 11:08 PM ET
Biggy update: The bus is going on tour!
With less than a month left in the NHL’s All-Star fan balloting, Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, who was left off the ballot, is way down near the bottom of the “leader board,” but that hasn’t stopped WRIF 101.1 FM’s Meltdown from teaming up with the Wings to engineer a last-minute surge of fan support:
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, via a Q and A session with fans, suggests that Jimmy Howard has indeed arrived in the discussion of the league’s best goaltenders…
Question: Jimmy Howard is my favourite NHL goalie. Do you think he’s almost on par with other elite goalies like Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist?
Answer: Howard, 27, has been the Detroit Red Wings best player in the first third of the season with a 1.83 goals-against average and .931 save percentage and 15 wins. The difference I see in Howard is psychological. He now knows he’s a bona fide NHL No. 1 goalie. His teammates know it, too. He carries himself like a starter. He competes and doesn’t give up on plays that have goal written all over them. He paid his dues, spending four years in the American Hockey League in Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s 90-42-16 over the last two seasons plus. The only question for me is he has to be better in the playoffs with just a 12-11 record.
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose canvassed the Wings’ locker room to garner support for the “Vote for Howard” campaign:
“I don’t know that you can point to a goalie – night in and night out – better, who has played virtually every minute of the season,” Wings backup goalie Ty Conklin said. “Even in the games that we were losing 2-1, 3-2, he was fantastic. When we lost four in a row, he was fantastic. I really can’t look at a game where he’s had a soft game at all. He’s been pretty rock-solid all year.”
“He’s given us a chance to win every night,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “Against Anaheim he was really good and made some great saves to keep us in the game in the second period and also in the third. We’re really confident with him back there and it allows us to play a little bit in a different way because we are so confident with him.”
at is going on at home. It’s a chance to come here and do what I love. My confidence has grown so much since my first two years. I feel like I can be a difference-maker now.”
“Has he played well for us? Yes. Do we like him? Absolutely,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Who’s the best goalie in the Western Conference? Who has the best numbers? Howard? Then maybe he should be on the ballot. I think as a player you worry about the things that you can control, and how you’re playing. You do good things on the ice and good things happen to you as far as notoriety goes. And yet to me, it would be a real honor for him. He was in the running for rookie of the year a couple of years ago, if I’m not mistaken. He’s been a very important player for us and he continues to get better.”
“I think he deserves to be on the ballot,” [Nicklas] Lidstrom said. “He’s been our most consistent player so far this season. He kept us in games where we haven’t scored for him and he’s won games for us. I think he’s just more consistent and I think it’s harder to score on him now. Even though there have been times when you think they’re going to score on a rebound or something, he’s been there to save those kind of shots with a leg kick or he gets that glove up there. He’s just raised his level of play overall.”
Howard himself suggests to Roose and just about everybody else who asks that making the fan vote cut simply doesn’t matter to him, and that, instead, fatherhood’s changed his game:
“Over the summertime, I was just hoping that I could do a good job (as a dad),” Howard said. “Then I remember just sitting in the hospital and everything came naturally, from changing the diapers, but now I have it down flat.”
Fatherhood has taught the 27-year-old goalie from Syracuse, N.Y., something very valuable, which he’s managed to transfer to his game on the ice.
“I’m a lot more patient now then I was made out to be,” Howard said. “I was a little bit more impatient, I guess you can say. Just my approach to life, I’m a lot more patient then I ever was. I find it a lot more calming coming to the arena now. It’s almost like an escape from everything that is going on at home. It’s a chance to come here and do what I love. My confidence has grown so much since my first two years. I feel like I can be a difference-maker now.”
If you want to vote for Howard at Vote.nhl.com, I’m not going to discourage you from doing so, but I’ve become a bitter 33-year-old when it comes to fan balloting. I tend to believe that even in this era of supposedly hacker-proof balloting, fans do indeed find ways to program their way to stuffing the ballot box, and that we’ve more than reached the point of no return there.
As a late-comer, however, I feel more than a little guilty about not getting on the bandwagon earlier myself, and hell, any expression of fan support is pretty darn good…So go for it. Vote away, and know that even if he doesn’t make the cut as a starter, the GM’s and the NHL’s Hockey Operations department are all but certain to tell Howard to pack his bags for Ottawa anyway.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.