The Red Wings are 0-2-4 in their last six games. In those six games the team has allowed 18 goals in regulation time. That’s far too many for a squad that is having difficulty scoring goals themselves.
Just like a losing streak in baseball, or a hitting slump that is resulting in losses piling up, the Red Wings likely won’t be able to score their way out of these doldrums. They’re going to have to defend their way out. More specifically, goal tend their way out.
The Red Wings need their ace to pitch a shutout. They need him to take the ball and mow the batters down.
They need Jimmy Howard to steal a game or two.
Howard hasn’t been awful in this losing streak, but he hasn’t been brilliant, either. And the Red Wings need him to be the latter, because the offense is still shaky.
Howard needs to throw a shutout or a one-goal game. It may be the best shot the team has at victory, the way things are going now.
These are the times when a truly top-notch goalie has to say, “Hop on, boys, and I’ll make like a brick wall and get us a win or two.”
Howard, still, isn’t legitimately an elite goalie in the NHL. He hasn’t passed the smell test.
The Red Wings haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since Howard became the full-time starter four years ago. It hasn’t necessarily been his fault, but the elite goalies don’t care. The elite goalies elevate their level of play—damning the torpedoes and willing their way to victory, even if the skaters are struggling to score more than one goal a night.
The other smell test is happening right now.
The Red Wings, like any team in a losing rut, can’t quite do enough things right on a nightly basis. Secondary scoring (or the lack thereof), the power play and turnovers have all bedeviled the Wings this season—and no more prevalent than in games played at home.
But even when those things are a positive—they’re getting cleaned up, slowly but surely—the Red Wings still can’t get two points.
It’s because the goalie isn’t passing the smell test.
Howard isn’t letting in soft goals so much as he’s not making the eye-popping saves. And the Red Wings could use a few spectacular saves right about now.
Jimmy Howard isn’t a bad goalie. Quite the contrary. But he seems to have plateaued. He needs to pass some smell tests. The playoffs are still five months away, so that smell test will have to wait.
The present is all that matters now. And presently, the Red Wings need some super duper goaltending to break this maddening streak of getting one point instead of two.
Jimmy Howard, your life is calling.
So far, you haven’t been picking up the phone.