Earlier this week I wrote on another website about how the Red Wings were the underdogs in this playoff matchup. Not because they are the lower seed, that would be the obvious answer. The obvious answer is because of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard’s inexperience in playoffs. This is true. Howard has zero NHL playoff experience. Right?
But once you start having this conversation, you start to realize that Howard’s playoffs started months ago. How is this you ask? How could this possibly be?
His playoff started the day that Chris Osgood had a mental and professional meltdown. Chris Osgood came off a stellar playoffs performance, no one can argue that. But he never came back. He’s jeopardized his professional reputation and the Red Wings’ entire season with the worst year that he has ever had. Yes many other things went wrong, but when a team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals has their starting goalie fall apart, you have a HUGE problem.
The Red Wings could not go to the market and sign a goalie. Not only were they maxed out on the salary cap, but with all the injuries, they had no one to trade to step in for Osgood. Also, factor in that Babcock an company were counting on Osgood to start a majority of the games, that really hurts a team -emotionally and psychologically.
So, you start both goalies in hopes that #30 can get his grove back and Howard can get at least a little comfortable. But alas, Chris Osgood shut down. All the while his mouth was running wild about “not getting his shot.”
So now without ever saying it publicly, and most likely not even privately everything was on Jimmy Howard to step up and grow up into an NHL starting goalie – almost over night. Now, that’s a bit dramatic as he is 26 years old. Not really over night. But when this is thrust upon a player to step up like this, it is a scary thing from a team’s perspective.
So if he did not perform, they might be sitting next to the Minnesota Wild, which is never a good thing. So yes, Jimmy Howard’s playoffs started months ago. Quite simply, if he failed, the Red Wings would have failed as well.
During this discussion, you HAVE to bring up the utter lack of defense. The biggest concern of the playoff last year, unfortunately has been a concern all year. The Red Wings’ defense has been porous, slow, out of position and just plain bad at times. Howard has faced more shots on goal this year (1,849 SA) than Chris Osgood has ever had to stop in one season as a Red Wing (1,654 SA in 1998-1999).
Jimmy Howard’s nerves should already be up to the pressure to win. It was do or die then, and it’s do or die now. So if any Red Wings fan is worried about losing in the first round Because of Jimmy Howard, don’t be. Jimmy has done this before,. His playoffs started months ago.