Jimmy Howard came up huge for Detroit (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
The oft-maligned goaltender turned in a superior performance at the exact right time, shutting out Philadelphia in a crucial victory. The Red Wings now have an inside track on a playoff spot in the East and the franchise's streak may live on after all.
As a whole, this has not been a very good campaign for Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings netminder lost his job to young upstart Petr Mrazek and has some of the worst individual stats of any goalie who has played at least 30 games in the NHL this season.
But man, did Howard come up big last night.
The veteran stoned the Flyers for just his second shutout of the season in a 3-0 Detroit win. Howard made 30 saves, including several beauties such as this robbery of Sean Couturier through a screen:
The win was incredibly important for Detroit. It gave the Red Wings 93 points with two games remaining, meaning a win against Boston tonight who clinch a playoff spot over the Bruins in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers are still alive, too, with a game in hand on the other two squads thanks to a rescheduled affair vs. the Islanders originally postponed by snow in late January.
And while making the playoffs is important to every franchise, Detroit has that nifty 24-season streak to continue. It was looking dodgy there for awhile, but with Boston imploding down the stretch (the Bruins are 2-7-1 in their past 10 games), the door opened once again. Though Mrazek had been great earlier in the season, the young netminder has been strafed lately, getting pulled in several outings.
Now, Howard is carrying the water. The veteran has won his past four starts, surrendering no more than two goals in any of those games. Meanwhile, the offense has provided three goals in each of the past five contests, so the offensive support is there.
Can the Red Wings make it 25 playoff appearances in a row? The odds are much better now. And while you can blame Howard's poor play at the beginning of the season for helping put Detroit in this predicament in the first place, at least the netminder has now grabbed a shovel to get the Wings out of their hole.