Jimmy Howard carried the load for the Detroit Red Wings last season starting in 42 of the 48 games in the shortened season. Howard played well all season and put the Wings on his back and carried them into the playoffs. After a great season, Howard earned himself a $31,750,000 contract for the next six seasons.
Howard’s play in the playoffs was even more impressive than the regular season. Howard’s play last season set the bar high coming into this season, and with a brand new contract keeping him in net for the Wings for another six seasons, Wings fans were expecting nothing less than last season.
Howard’s season has been a huge question mark thus far, he’s started in 24 games this season, and has a record of 7-9-8. Howard has been inconsistent and struggled to make routine saves all too regularly. Howard has had three stretches of four or more games without a win, including a seven game losing streak during November, when he won only one game, a shut out against the New York Islanders on the 29th.
The Red Wings have battled numerous injuries this season, and the defense has had their fair share go down. The defense hasn’t been great for most of the season, and they’ve had to play with an offense that has been inconsistent at times as well due to injuries.
Howard played against Florida in an overtime loss on the 10th of December and then missed nine games with a knee injury. Jonas Gustavsson took over the bulk of the work load and held his own for the Wings. The Grand Rapids Griffin’s Czechoslovakian goaltender Petr Mrazek was called up and played in three games during Howard’s streak as well.
Howard made his return to the Red Wings line up on the 30th when the Red Wings played the Nashville Predators. Howard had a very poor outing, letting in five goals, most of them should be easy stops. Howard made 23 saves and had fans hanging their heads once again.
Howard got the nod for the Winter Classic despite the bad game in Nashville a couple of nights before, he bounced back and played an awesome game for the Wings. He made 24 saves on 26 shots in the outdoor game, despite losing in a shootout, Howard looked good and played a great game in net.
Last night the Red Wings took the ice and had Howard in net when they visited Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars. The Stars had the first 12 shots on goal, and Howard stood up to the task. The Wings went out of the first period with 20 saves out of their Olympic goaltender. Howard finished the night with 44 saves on 45 shots and played another great game for the Wings.
Howard looks better now than he has all season, and going forward the Wings are going to need him to be at the top of his game to move up the standings a bit and get a bit of cushion. Howard looks good for the first time in a long time, and if he cane continue to play like he has the last two games, and repeat his effort from last season, the Red Wings might be getting even more dangerous than they have been all year.