A Starter is Born: Red Wings' Goalie Jimmy Howard is Winning the Net

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IDecember 7, 2009

MONTREAL- SEPTEMBER 30:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings stops the puck during the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on September 30, 2008 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Red Wings 2-1 in a shootout.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

There are a few truly unique positions in professional sports.

These are positions that carry with them equal amounts of unbridled glory and merciless scrutiny.

Win, and you're the city's messiah.

Lose, and you're derided as the anti-Christ.

Namely, these positions include the manager of the New York Yankees, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, and the goalie for the Detroit Red Wings.

Ask Chris Osgood about this.

After becoming the franchise playoff wins leader, backstopping two Stanley Cup championships, and now sitting five wins away from 400, he's still considered by many Red Wing fans to be the worst goalie to ever win a championship.

Well, that is, until he does, then he's just fine.


However, for the uninitiated, Detroit is an equal-opportunity goalie basher.

Along with Osgood, Mike Vernon, Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, and Manny Legace have all, at some point, been the bane of a fan's existence.

Oh, and let's not forget Tim Cheveldae, who opted for a much less stressful job as a firefighter upon his retirement.

Such perils accompany the position itself, not necessarily the man who occupies it.

The residents change, but the neighborhood remains as it always has beenβ€”rough.

To this point in the season, it appears as if rookie Jimmy Howard is earning the opportunity to be awarded the dubious honor of being the starting goalie for the Detroit Red Wings.

If this turns out to be the case, Jimmy Howard will be the first Detroit draft pick to become their starting goalie since 1993-94 when one Chris Osgood first assumed regular starting duties.

Howard's numbers through 15 games played are decent, but not great, 8-5-1 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.55 GAA.

But numbers can only tell part of the story.

Howard has turned in some stellar performances this season, most recently a shootout win against St. Louis and a win Sunday over his hometown New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

In both of these instances (as well as a few others), Howard has kept his team in the game, despite the sloppy play in front of him.

Both of these games were come from behind wins.

In the St. Louis game, Howard played well enough to get his team into overtime where he made several key saves, including a point-blank try by Paul Kariya.

Once in the shootout, Howard allowed only one goal in four tries, setting the stage for Todd Bertuzzi's winner in the fourth round.

Sunday's win was certainly a team effort, but Howard played spectacularly, allowing only one goal (and that on a quick deflection) and almost single-handedly killing off the second of three Rangers' power-plays.

Oh, he also stopped a penalty shot.

Ranger's forward Ryan Callahan was hooked on a break-away by Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and awarded a penalty shot.

Callahan executed a beautiful fake and then deked to his right, only to have his attempt thwarted at the goal-line by Howard's left pad.

Taken at face value, solid as they were, these are just two wins by a rookie goaltender.

However, Jimmy Howard's performance as a whole this season reveals a player that is confident, cool under pressure, and aggressively competing on a nightly basis.

Have there been some bad goals?


Howard has looked every bit the shaky rookie and has let in some real stinkers here and there.

But, such is the case with any goaltender in the league.

The trick to winning in that position is making sure that the bad goals don't outnumber the great stops.

Howard has done a good job of pulling this off so far.

Regardless of his play, Chris Osgood is 37 and staring down the barrel of retirement.

Few goalies not named Roy, Brodeur, or Hasek can realistically expect to be a No. 1 net-minder past 35.

Facing serious cap issues and limited options via the trade route, the time could not be better for Detroit to once again see a homegrown talent become a permanent resident between the pipes.

Howard should be aware, however, that it's a mighty rough neighborhood he's moving to.


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