Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

MEGA 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

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Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

Another gust post from Red Wings guru Mario Dicicco. The moment has been slowly building up since an early April night in the desert two years ago, when Jimmy Howard went between the pipes for his first playoff start against the Phoenix Coyotes. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2010, but signs of a rookie as well which burned the Wings on multiple occasions that playoff year. Last year the net-minder showed he learned from his rookie experience and asserted himself as the goalie for the Red Wings for the foreseeable future. In 11 playoff games last season, Howard gave up two goals or less five times, and at times looked like a dominant playoff goaltender. Now playoff season number three beckons and Howard will look to help carry his team for a deep run through the Stanley Cup playoffs. Through the first four months of the season, Howard was thought of as a Vezina Trophy candidate, leading the league in wins and being near the top in both goals against average and save percentage. A broken finger and a couple of pulled groins temporarily took Howard out of his groove down the stretch, but in the last handful of games of the regular season, he managed to find his early season form again. Goaltenders are judged inDetroit, fair or not, by what they do in the playoffs. Mike Vernon, Chris Osgood, and Dominik Hasek won Stanley Cups with the Wings and will be forever remembered. Howard must be up to the task if he wishes to join those names and help the Wings get to that sacred promised land. But first, Howard and his mates must get past the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs. Here’s how the two teams stack up against each other.

Tale of the Tape

Offense: The Red Wings can roll out two dominant lines with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg leading the way. Valtteri Filppula has had a career year forDetroit and could be an X-factor who tips the scales in the Red Wings’ favor if his production carries over into the postseason. For a team that has a lot of star power within their forwards, the Wings did not register a 30 goal scorer this season. Darren Helm has been out of action for a month and his presence has clearly been missed on the third line. His speed and tenacity are contagious on the bottom two lines. Helm has been skating for the last several days and reports are that he could be setting up a Game 2 return. Getting Helm back is crucial forDetroit as the gap from the top two lines to the bottom two lines is significant in terms of offensive production. For the Predators, they too don’t have a 30 goal scorer but get their contributions from a lot of people. Martin Erat, David Legwand, and Mike Fisher lead the balancedNashville offensive attack, along with Sergei Kostitsyn. Sergei was reunited with his brother Andrei Kostitsyn when he was traded to the Predators fromMontreal at the trade deadline. Alexander Radulov will be a problem forDetroit throughout the series. In the nine games he played since returning from the KHL inRussia, Radulov registered three goals and four assists. Jordan Tootoo will look to frustrate the Red Wings with his presence and get under their skin to draw penalties.

Edge: Even