Last week I posted a poll asking readers what topic I should cover in my first article and this article won by popular vote. The article started to get a bit long so I'm going to break it up into a few different posts. Here's the first part:
As all Wings fans probably know the current Red Wings team has little resemblance to the teams of the '90's and early 2000's. Those teams were filled with star-studded talent wearing the Winged Wheel; the likes of Yzerman, Lidstrom, and many other all-time greats. The rosters read like an All-Star team. Fans were used to President Trophies, long play-off runs and the possibility of a Stanley Cup every season.
When Nick Lidstrom retired it wasn't just the end of one of the greatest hockey careers of all time, it signaled the end of an era for the entire franchise. Suddenly, fans are more worried about just making the playoffs than they are concerned with securing home ice advantage or winning the division.
However, I always believe that the end of one era is just the beginning of another. These Wings may not be as filled with top to bottom talent or win as many individual trophies but they might have a very bright future, regardless.
Reasons to be optimistic about the future
#1. Howie is more clutch than you might think.
When I decided to write this article and started brainstorming ideas, one of the first things I thought of was how much Jimmy Howard's play helps carry the Wings at times. Last year the Red Wings probably wouldn't have made the playoffs with out Jimmy. He stepped up when the team needed him, delivering one clutch performance after another and leading the Wings to within one win of the Western Conference Championships.
Surprisingly, I discovered that Howard's post-season stats are actually about equal to or even slightly worse than his career averages (a fact which might be explained by having to face tougher competition in every game). His career GAA is 2.42 versus a 2.57 GAA in the playoffs and his save percentage is about the same (.917% and .918%, respectively). However, what really stood out to me was Jimmy's performance down the stretch in March and April.
Over the last four years, between 2009 and 2013, Howard has been excellent through the last two months of the season. Here is a list of Jimmy's GAA's and save percentages for each of the past four years:
- Year GAA Save%
- 2009-2010: 2.26 .924%
- 2010-2011: 2.79 .908%
- 2011-2012: 2.12 .920%
- 2012-2013: 2.13 .923%
In comparison, here are Jimmy's GAA's and save percentages in March and April of those same years:
- March April
- Year GAA Save % GAA Save %
- 2009-2010: 2.24 .918% 2.15 .909%
- 2010-2011: 2.54 .913% 2.98 906%
- 2011-2012: 2.80 .886% 1.66 .937%
- 2012-2013: 1.89 .934% 1.44 .942%
Only twice was his GAA higher in March than over the rest of the season and only once was it higher in April than his season average. In fact, in most cases his GAA dropped notably over the final two months of the season, including a GAA below 2.00 in April of 2012 and from March through April in 2013.
His save percentage varied less dramatically but Howard still posted percentages above his season averages over his last two Aprils and two of his last three March's.
None of these stats prove that Jimmy Howard is an elite net minder but I do think they show that Jimmy has consistently came through for the Wings when they need him most and will likely continue to carry them in the future. As we all know, most teams can only go as far as their goaltending takes them so Wings fans should be happy to have a solid, dependable, and fairly affordable goalie minding their net for the forseeable future. It's looking more and more like the Wings will need to scrap their way into the playoffs more then they did in years past so having a goaltender who excels during the end-of-season stretch run seems like a reason for optimism, indeed.
Note: Thanks for reading my first article and as always questions, comments, suggestions, and editorial corrections are always welcome!