When you talk about the NHL playoffs, you go directly to great netminding and that’s what the Detroit Red Wings have in their possession right now. Names like Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist come to mind when you think about guys you’d want between the pipes in a big Game 6, but the Red Wings have Jimmy Howard who has proven to be perhaps the best netminder in the playoffs right now.
Howard has effectively shut down the Blackhawks lighting quick offensive and before Game 5, held Chicago in check for five straight periods of playoff hockey. The hard hits the Red Wings are delivering are getting some credit for why Detroit has the Blackhawks up against a wall entering Game 6 Monday night, but none of it is possible without the brilliance Howard has shown for the Wings this series.
The next question in the conversation is can Howard capture that magic once again Monday night and shut down the Chicago Blackhawks memorable season and make it just another failed attempt at returning the Cup to Chicago?
Logic suggests yes, but so does the evidence. Howard doesn’t have overwhelming stats to say up front that he’s capable of stopping Chicago, rather his magic is a you have to see it type of performance. By comparison, Howard is hanging with the likes of Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist when it comes to makes saves that make even the Antti Niemi’s of the world blush.
But while he’s made more than his fair share of spectacular saves this postseason, as we all saw with Lundqvist in New York, you can only make so many amazing highlight saves before your defense and lack of offense catch up.
Before Game 5, the Red Wings looked too good to lose three games in a row but with only two potential games left in the series, Game 6 will be bigger than most people think. It’s not just about knocking out the Blackhawk, it’s about taking command of the Western Conference and showing the world that you have a netminder channeling the run Jonathan Quick had last year with the Kings.
Quick is still the better goalie on paper, but as we saw last year all it takes is for a guy to get white hot between the pipes and he’ll melt the puck before it gets past him.
Statistics say Howard isn’t the best goalie in the NHL playoffs but the tale of the tape is very different. Just because Howard is brilliant in net doesn’t guarantee the Red Wings a victory but he remains their best chance at winning and three out of the five games played this series have tipped in the Red Wings favor, which has everything to do with Jimmy Howard.