By Jake Duhaime
Even though it doesn’t count in the standings, the All-Star spotlight still catches those who take part.
“I had several butterflies beforehand,” admitted Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard
following Team Chara’s 12-9 All-Star Game victory. “And as soon as we dropped the puck and started playing, it all felt natural.”
For Howard, having the opportunity to celebrate one of hockey’s biggest events with those he loves the most was a just reward for a stellar first half of the season.
“It was really special being here and having my family to share it with,” Howard said. “Without them, driving me all around when I was younger. I wouldn’t be here with the opportunities I have had.”
|Howard (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) |
This trip to Ottawa was a homecoming of sorts for the league leader in wins (30). Howard grew up in Odgensburg, New York, about an hour south of Scotiabank Place, and played summer hockey in the Canadian capital. He also played Junior A hockey in nearby Westport, Ontario.
Among those in Howard’s traveling party was his infant son, James Russell Howard IV, born less than three weeks into the season on October 23. Though as you would expect from an All-Star goaltender, the little one already has a passport, a pair of ice skates and had plans to skate the famed Rideau Canal with pop.
The father-son skate eventually fell through, but we’re sure other All-Star opportunities will arise if Howard III continues his stellar play.
“It was just spending the whole weekend with him,” Howard said when asked of a highlight of the weekend. “Having him around, seeing him and including him in everything. It’s just my little way of saying thank you to him.”
As for the game itself, Howard was tabbed as the starting goaltender, giving up three goals on 14 shots. Though don’t be fooled. The All-Star Game is an offense-first event. There simply isn’t a lot of room for defense, shot-blocking, grinders and checking. Howard’s second period replacement, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, joked it was like being thrown to the wolves.
Howard saw just one shot over the first seven minutes of play, but was later beaten by Jason Spezza, who got a piece of Dan Girardi’s shot, Henrik Sedin, from Scott Hartnell at the 12:51 mark, and John Tavares, who put home a rebound off the end-boards to tie the game at three at 13:45.
He also made a brilliant save on Sharks forward Logan Couture at the edge of the paint, and stopped Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos on a penalty shot late in the period.
|Datsyuk (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) |
As his teammate Pavel Datsyuk
would probably say of Howard’s night, the All-Star Game is for fans who enjoy scoring more than shutouts.
“The game is more fun for us and more fun for the fans,” Datsyuk said of the event’s loose atmosphere. “We want to make the fans be happy.”
Datsyuk, the other Red Wings representative, played alongside former teammate Marian Hossa and the game’s MVP Marian Gaborik., registering three assists and a +4 in 15:20 of ice time. He set up Gaborik on the game’s first goal just 4:34 in and picked up a helper on Hossa’s eventual game-winner in the third period.
“I had a good time here,” Datsyuk. “It’s easy to play with both of them and we win the game. Now we look forward.”
Forward, meaning the start of a four game road trip to Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Phoenix, part of a stretch that sees the Red Wings play 14 games in 29 days.
“The month of February is probably the hardest month of the season,” Howard said. “Come March, you start to see the end of the tunnel and the playoffs on the horizon.”
“Right now, it’s just so tight, especially in the Central Division, where points are at a premium. We’ve got to go out every single night and win.”NOTES: Tim Thomas picked up his fourth consecutive All-Star victory … Team Alfredsson captain Daniel Alfredsson scored a pair of second period goals, sending his home arena into a standing ovation … Multi-platinum recording artist Drake performed during the player introductions and the second intermission … Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay was part of a ceremony celebrating the previous All-Star Games held in Canada … The City of Columbus has been awarded the 2013 NHL All-Star Game, which will take place on January 27, 2013 at Nationwide Arena.