Michael Amato looks at Jimmy Howard’s strong play in 2013.
When Nicklas Lidstrom retired this past off-season it certainly would have given fans and many in the Detroit Red Wings organization a fearful outlook on the future. Perhaps what worried everyone more than the loss of their franchise defenseman, was the fear of the unknown. Lidstrom had been a fixture on the Red Wing blueline for 20 years. Some young fans in Detroit probably couldn’t imagine a scenario without the seven-time Norris Trophy winner being a part of the squad.
The loss of Lidstrom was so devastating because like many other great players, he has a trickle down effect throughout the roster. Just look at what he did for his defense partner Ian White last year. White enjoyed a career revival in 2011-12 and had one of his best statistical seasons ever, with 32 points and a plus-23 rating. In 2013, without Lidstrom, White has really struggled with just two points so far and has even been a healthy scratch on several occasions.
Lidstrom’s departure would have had many concerned from an offensive perspective, but the Swede had an innate talent to defend effortlessly. His ability to shut down opponent’s top lines is something Detroit has relied on greatly over the years. Now that he’s gone, there will be a lot more pressure placed squarely on the shoulders of goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Howard had a breakout last season in the Motor City and was named an All-Star. His six shutouts, .920 save percentage, and 2.12 goals against average gave Detroit something they haven’t had in quite some time, top notch goaltending. Sure, the Red Wings have had adequate play between the pipes over the past 20 years, but they have never had that guy who was among the league’s elite. Whether it was a past his prime Dominik Hasek or a steady, but not flashy Chris Osgood, the Red Wings goaltending has been good, just not great. Howard now brings them to that next level, and with an aging and changing core of players, Detroit needs him now more than ever.
Looking at Howard’s numbers at a quick glance from 2013, you will notice they have slightly fallen from last year’s totals. However, Howard’s play this season may be his most impressive work to date. Detroit has not been playing like the typical defensive juggernaut we are accustomed to, and are doing very un-Red Wing like things. Howard is now being counted on to win them games, as opposed to just giving them a chance to