The Detroit Red Wings got back on track Saturday night with a convincing 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Just three days after suffering a 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a thrilling Winter Classic game, the Red Wings got a win that will could prove to be a great starting point to their current five-game road trip. As they continue to fight for one of the final playoff spots, the win proved even more important since the Maple Leafs suffered an embarrassing loss to the New York Rangers on the same night. While Henrik Zetterberg had a two-goal night and three other players scored, the story of the night was goaltender Jimmy Howard, who turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced to get his first win since Nov. 29.
Howard played well in the Winter Classic, stopping 24 shots in regulation in overtime. He continues to struggle in the shootout, but after Wednesday’s game he was named to Team USA’s Olympic roster for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Saturday night’s performance was one of the few times this season that Howard has looked as good as he did last season, which is great news for the team moving forward. Jonas Gustavsson has done an admirable job of keeping Detroit in the playoff hunt while Howard has battled injuries, but it will now be Howard’s job to carry them to the next level. His 7-9-8 record reflects how much of a struggle this season has been, as well as why many were surprise that he got the Olympic nod over Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning). As they continue to battle mounting injuries. the Red Wings need to keep seeing Howard play like he did Saturday. Last season Howard won 21 games, including four in a row to end the regular season. He was also strong in the playoffs, helping Detroit get to overtime of game seven in the conference semi-final against the Chicago Blackhawks. If he can turn it on in the second half like he did last year, the Red Wings should be in great shape down the stretch, and Howard’s addition to Team USA will stop being second-guessed.