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Wings confident in Howard

Tuesday, 04.12.2011 / 3:23 PM ET / News
By Michael Caples  - Detroit Red Wings Staff Writer
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Wings confident in Howard
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DETROIT – The Red Wings know that goaltending will be counted on more than ever when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday. And Jimmy Howard will have to be up to the task.

It will be the second playoffs for the 27-year-old Howard, and Wings coach Mike Babcock said the confidence level of him heading into his second postseason compared to his first has been like, “Night and day”.

“Number 1 is that he’s not trying to prove to us or to prove to himself,” Babcock said. “He knows, and we know that we think he’s a good goalie.”

Howard will be facing the same first-round opponent when he begins his second playoff campaign. Last spring, the Coyotes scored 17 goals on Howard, and the Wings had to travel to Phoenix for a season-saving Game 7 win.

“I don’t know what it was, to be honest,” Howard said of his nerves then. “It was just a new unfamiliar situation. I had played in a national championship game, a world championships game, the under-18s and the World Junior Championships and everything like that, but when you’re playing for something that you’ve dreamed about your whole life, and then all of a sudden you’re there, it’s different, it’s sort of surreal.”

Howard posted a 5-7 record in last year’s playoffs, along with a .915 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average. Now in his second full season, the Wings’ young goaltender expects to improve on those numbers.
“I feel calmer,” Howard said. “Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s one thing to be a Black Ace, it’s another thing to actually be out there and playing. The intensity definitely picks up, a lot more guys crashing the net and a lot more scrums in front of the net. You have to be that much more focused.”

Yet even Howard admitted that there was a point in time this season where he was struggling to make saves. His regular-season numbers declined from last season, as his save percentage dropped 18-points to .908, and his goals-against increased to 2.79. However, he recorded 37 wins, same as last season.

“I hit a hiccup there in Christmastime,” Howard said. “It wasn’t pretty. Pucks just weren’t hitting me like they were in the beginning of the year. For some reason they went in. The key thing in those situations is that you don’t change anything, you don’t change your style. You just keep battling and tweak things here or there.”

Yet Howard’s struggles midway through the season hasn’t done anything to affect the locker room’s confidence in him.

“We have a lot of confidence in Howie,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s been playing well for us and we’re going rely on him.”

Babcock said he has been pleased with how his goalie has handled his adversity, and pointed out that Howard has improved since agreeing to a two-year extension on Feb. 28.

“We think he’s really played well when we’ve played against good goalies at the other end,” Babcock said. “He’s going to play against a real good goalie in (Ilya Bryzgalov), and you know, I think the kid’s prepared. He’s battled hard. He’s played really well with the exception of a couple months when the wheels were off the tracks there, but that happens to everybody sometimes, and you know I think since his (contract) negotiation’s been done he’s been excellent, so good for him.”

Howard said that after going through a postseason where he wasn’t sure what was going to happen next – and having to frequently consult veteran goalie Chris Osgood – he expects to feel a sense of calm this spring.

“There’s not a lot of ‘what-ifs’ going through your mind this time around,” Howard said. “Last year, trying to predict things in your mind of how things are going to happen, and I was asking a lot more questions to the coaches and to Oz everything like that to try to better myself, and this year, you know having the taste of the playoffs, it will make me that much more focused.”




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
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