DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard is in the midst of his best season in the NHL.
Let’s just not talk about his performances in the shootouts, where he dropped to 0-6 on the season Tuesday, allowing 11 goals on 15 shots.
“We don’t have them in the playoffs,” Howard said. “That’s when it really matters.”
The regular season for Howard is a much different story.
Howard ranks fifth in goals-against average (2.05), eighth in wins (13) and shutouts (two).
“It’s been good,” Howard said when asked about his start to the season. “There have been a couple games, obviously a couple goals, I’d like to have back, but that’s going to happen to every goalie over the course of the season. As a team we’re just doing a great job finding ways to win games and I think that’s a great sign of a young team maturing.”
Howard is 13-5-7 this season.
“If you go back to his first five games his save percentage was through the roof,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Those first five games we weren’t confident and going yet and we needed him even more so I think that’s really important.
“Now his job is just kind of be good night in and night out,” Babcock continued. “Howie’s a guy that can really give us confidence the better he plays the more swagger the team has. I really thought when we were trying to find ourselves and gain confidence Howie was really good.”
Howard credits his health as being a main reason for his success early on.
“That’s the biggest thing,” said Howard, who was drafted by the Wings in 2003 (second round, 64th overall). “I put in the work in the summertime. (Good health) gives you the confidence to go out there and do your job.”
Howard, 30, recently moved into third on the all-time wins list in franchise history. In his career he has a 2.38 goal-against average, .917 save percentage and 20 shutouts.
“To be honest with you I haven’t really given it any thought,” Howard said. “That’s the farthest thing from my mind. I guess what it comes down to is I’m thankful I’ve been able to play so long here in one city.
“We battled through a lot of injuries last year to a lot of key guys,” Howard continued. “We scratched and clawed and found a way into the playoffs. We felt coming into this year, with everyone getting healthy over the summer, the younger guys getting a year older, we felt we had a good team.”
Howard is in the second year of a six-year deal he signed at close to $5.3 million a season to be the franchise goalie.
“He gives us a chance to win,” Johan Franzen said. “He’s a steady, steady guy. He shows up every night and does what we need. If we can get it done up front he’s going to give us a chance to win the game.
“He’s been good for a long time,” Franzen added. “I think he’s always been steady, but maybe he’s a little bit better this year.”
Howard is the 12th highest paid goalie in the league according to CapGeek.com. New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist is No. 1 at $11 million a season.
“You won’t hear too much from him on game days, but he’s the type of goalie that rises to the occasion,” Stephen Weiss said. “When we’re not at our best and we need him to back us up he’s been there numerous times for us.”
In each of Howard’s first two full seasons in Detroit he recorded 37 wins, becoming the only goalie in Wings history to win at least 35 games in each of his first two seasons.