The Detroit Red Wings scored a huge win for their playoffs hopes on Sunday, as they got a great performance from goaltender Jimmy Howard and a timely goal from Johan Franzen. The 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators moved the Red Wings back into eighth place in the Western Conference standings, with a two-point lead over the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot. It was the second consecutive time Howard has recorded a shutout against the Predators, and his third shutout of the season.
Howard has been a workhorse for Detroit this season, as Sunday’s start was his ninth straight. He has played in 36 of the Red Wings’ 42 games this season, collecting 17 wins while posting a goals-against average of 2.31 and a .920 save percentage. He hasn’t gotten the offensive support he is used to, and the defense in front of him has been injury-plagued and looks a lot different than last season. Despite all of this, on Sunday Howard once again showed why the Red Wings are hoping to soon sign him to a long-term deal, as his statistics may not always be flashy but he puts himself in the right position to make the key saves needed to preserve wins.
Howard has continued to get better as the season has progressed, and during the telecast of Sunday’s game on Fox Sports Detroit, the analysts showed how he was beaten during the shootout in games against the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks due to the position of his stick, then compared it to some key saves he made against the Predators by learning from those mistakes. That hard work and dedication says a lot about Howard as a player, and could very well end up making the difference between the Red Wings making the playoffs or seeing their season end early for the first time in 22 years.