DETROIT – Monday was an off-day for the Red Wings. But that didn’t stop many of the players from continuing to rave about Jimmy Howard’s amazing weekend performance on Tuesday.
“He was great, unbelievable in both games,” fourth line center Cory Emmerton said. “If he didn’t play the way he did we definitely lose on Sunday. I thought both goalies played really well on Saturday. But, no, I think that you could see from that game he got off (in St. Louis) he got reenergized and he looked great.”
With the exception of last Thursday’s game in St. Louis, Howard has started every game for the Red Wings this season, mainly, out of necessity with backup Jonas Gustavsson still nursing a sore groin.
After allowing 11 goals in three games before his rest last week, Howard looked exceptionally sharp in one-goal victories over Edmonton and Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. It was the first time a Wings’ goalie recorded wins on back-to-back days since Dec. 26-27, 2011 when Howard stopped a combined 60 shots at Nashville (4-1) and home to St. Louis (3-2).
He stopped a combined 68 shots against the Oilers and Kings.
Los Angeles threw everything at the Wings on Sunday, especially in the second period when the defending Stanley Cup champions fired 23 shots at Howard, who stopped every one of them. By the end of the game, Howard had made 45 stops, the most saves he’s made since he had 47 saves against the New York Rangers in Feb. 2011.
But on Tuesday, Howard was quick to deflect praise for the two wins to the guys playing in front of him.
“One thing that hasn’t been keyed on is how well we did at really eliminating their second and third opportunities,” said Howard of the Kings. “There weren’t a lot of times when they were there whacking away. We were able to control sticks and get the rebounds out to safe areas.”
In a matter of two games, Howard’s goals-against average has dropped from 3.07 to 2.78. His explanation was simply, “I’m just seeing the puck well.”
Clearly, the one-game rest last week seemed to do the trick for Howard who has been a workhorse for the Red Wings over the last three seasons.
“He’s obviously been playing really well and playing a lot,” forward Valtteri Filppula said. “It’s really impressive of what he’s doing, really keeping us in the games, and he did that again on Sunday.”
Howard will get the start against the Blues on Wednesday. Though he has yielded nine goals in two previous games against St. Louis, he believes the Wings have figured out their Central Division rivals.
“I think halfway through the second game we played them we started to limit their opportunities,” said Howard of the 5-3 win on Feb. 1. “They're a team that likes to get on the forecheck, get through the neutral zone fast and use their big bodies and speed to wear on your D, so by cutting them off halfway through the second game – and then when we went back to St. Louis – we executed the game plan really well of hemming them in their own zone.”
Against the Blues, Howard has an 11-5-1 lifetime record – his best against any NHL club – with a 2.55 GAA in 17 career starts.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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