Jimmy Howard Is Not The Problem

By: Jamie Samuelsen

If you’re a Wings fan who likes to worry, here’s a list of people and things that you can worry about.

1) Brad Stuart
2) Secondary Scoring
3) Nicklas Lidstrom
4) Pekka Rinne
5) Brad Stuart
6) The Nashville defense
7) Winning another game in Nashville
8) Silly Penalties
9) Brad Stuart

If you’re a Wings fan who likes to worry, here’s a list of people that you shouldn’t worry about.

1) Jimmy Howard

Sure, there are other names on that list like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but Howard deserves to be highlighted because he deserves little blame for the Wings 2-1 deficit in the series heading into Game 4 tonight at Joe Louis Arena. For years, goaltending has been the kneejerk, fallback overreaction in Detroit. Some of the all-time greats like Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood and Curtis Joseph have fallen prey to the simpletons who think that it only comes down to goaltending in the playoffs. (Yes. Fans did worry about Hasek in the early stages of that Vancouver series in 2002. And they certainly worried about him when he lost his job to Osgood in the 2008 Cup run.)

Howard is in his third full year as a starter and has yet to lead the Wings out of the second round of the playoffs. After a less than stellar game Sunday in Game 3, some are wondering if he’s the problem and he’s the reason that conference final appearances are moving away in the rear view mirror.

Here’s the answer. He’s not.

The Wings are trailing 2-1 in this series because the team has become top heavy once again. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are holding up their end as they always do. But the likes of Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary have disappeared. Coach Mike Babcock has publicly complained about the Wings slow starts. It’s a fair point. But isn’t that a reflection of the second and third lines? It’s early in the game when those guys are getting most of their minutes. And it’s those guys who are coming up empty. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom have accounted for five of the Red Wings seven goals so far. Only one other forward has scored a goal and that was Cory Emmerton in Game 2. Granted that’s a small sample size. But guess what? That sample size will stay pretty small for the 2012 playoffs unless something changes starting tonight.

Howard has not been perfect. His Game 3 effort was lacking. But he was rock solid in the first two games. Of the three goals he allowed in the Game 1 loss, none were his fault. Two were flukes and the third was the result of a horrid clear by Stuart right behind the Red Wing goal.

Goaltending has always gotten way too much credit and way too much blame here in Detroit. It’s no different with Howard. He’s not a superstar and will not lead the Wings to glory on his own. But he’s not the problem either. I expect him to play one of his best games tonight against the Preds. He just needs some of his teammates to raise their game as well.

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