Wings Fans, Don’t Give Up On Jimmy Howard

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Over the past eight games that Jimmy Howard has started, he has given up three or more goals in each of those games. Howard has not won a game he has started in since Dec. 3 and currently holds a 2.94 goals against average (GAA) and a .903 save percentage (SV%) in the 21 games he has played in this season.

His latest blunder came Monday against the New York Islanders. He came out strong, making two key saves off of breakaways by Isles superstar John Tavares. But then the wheels fell off and the Red Wings would lose the game 4-1. After the game, Howard declined to speak to the media, which is something he rarely does.

It would be easy for Red Wings fans, or hockey fans in general, to look at Howard’s abysmal season and demand a trade. While it’s true that this has been a rough season for Jimmy, fans need to keep a few things in mind before they jump to dumping a player who has meant so much to the Red Wings organization.

The 2014-2015 season was an All-Star caliber season for Jimmy Howard. It would have been his second All Star game, and the season he was having made him deserving of the honor.

But then this happened:

https://youtu.be/TLPc1pM9458

After this injury, Howard was placed on injured reserve and gave way to backup, at the time, Petr Mrazek. Howard returned towards the end of the season, but saw Mrazek carry the majority of the starts as the former team USA goaltender was unable to return to the form that got him an All Star bid in the first place. The moral of this story is Howard was an elite goaltender last season before tearing his groin.

In the NHL, life as a goaltender relies on consistency. Goalies are so used to a routine that when that routine is snapped, it can often be difficult to recover. As mentioned earlier, when Howard was injured, he was replaced by Mrazek. Mrazek carried the Wings through the rest of the season and all the way to Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs. This meant that Howard went from starter to backup, two very different roles. Going from starting nearly every game to starting every once in awhile has a definite effect on a goaltender.

This season, Mrazek has emerged as the No. 1 goalie on this team and he has certainly earned the right to do so. Mrazek is 22-10-5 on the season with a 2.02 GAA and .930 SV% and has emerged as a serious Vezina Trophy contender. But Mrazek can’t play every game, which is where Howard steps in. There are points in the season where teams play two games in the same amount of days and this was the case for the Wings Sunday and Monday.

After coming off a 6-5 win over the Bruins Sunday, the Wings had to turn around and travel to Brooklyn to play the Islanders the next night. Because of the back-to-back games, which Howard’s last five starts have come off of, the team in front of Howard was slow and sluggish. Because the team in front of him was a tired team, Howard surrendered four goals, many of which came because of poor defense. Playing behind a less than 100 percent team is not ideal for a goaltender struggling to regain his confidence.

So, based on everything mentioned in this article, I ask Red Wings fans to be patient. Put yourself in the skates of a goaltender who had his job taken away from him. A goaltender who represented the last line of defense for one of the most respected organizations in the National Hockey League, but now has to ride the bench.

Jimmy Howard is still the goaltender you loved back when was not struggling with his confidence. Give him time; he will be back.