It’s been 44 years, but that could end if goalie Jimmy Howard
is named the NHL’s rookie of the year this season.
Howard is one of the main reasons that the injury-riddled Wings have been able to stay in the playoff hunt. It was originally thought that he would play back-up to three-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Osgood, but Howard took over the starting spot in November.
“He might have been our MVP (this season),” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He's done everything. He's in the top 10 in save percentage and goals-against average and he's a rookie at 25-years-old. He's been a big story for us, spending four years in the American Hockey League honing his craft. In the summer of 2008, we signed him to a three-year contract because we felt he would become an NHL goaltender. And he hasn't disappointed us."
Howard has posted statistics that rank near the top of the league leaders. He is sixth in save percentage (.923), and ninth in goals against average (2.38).
“It’s an honor,” Howard said of being mentioned in Calder Trophy discussions. “I’m really not reading much into it, but if I get a chance to win it, that would be great.”
The last Red Wings’ rookie to win the Calder Trophy was goalie Roger Crozier in 1965. In all, the Wings have had five Calder recipients, including goalies Glenn Hall (1956) and Terry Sawchuk (1951).
In the end, you put the goalie in that gives you the best chance to win that night and Jimmy's play has been more of a reflection of how well he's played versus a reflection of Chris Osgood. Take out three or four games and he might be in the top 5 in save percentage and goals-against average. He's been a big story for us. - Red Wings GM Ken Holland
The Wings have had 11 runners-up to the rookie trophy, more recently Henrik Zetterberg
(2003), Sergei Fedorov (1991) and Steve Yzerman (1984).
Howard’s Calder competition will include a pair of forwards – Colorado’s Matt Duchene and New York Islanders’ John Tavares – and Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers.
Duchene leads all rookies with 23 goals and 24 assists, while Tavares is third in goals with 18, and second in points with 36. Myers leads all rookie skaters with 23:40 of ice-time per game, and carries a plus-3 rating with 32 points.
Howard and Duchene have squared off three times this season. Howard is 2-1 in those games, making 20 saves in a 3-1 loss (Oct. 24); 20 saves in a 4-2 win (Dec. 31); and 22 saves in a 3-2 win (March 1). In those contests, Duchene was held to only two assists.
Howard has been impressed with the Colorado and Buffalo stars, saying that Duchene has, “been playing real well, and Myers has been doing really well in Buffalo. I don’t know, I’ll do my best so I can give myself a chance to win it, but that comes down to what others think.”
Early in the season, Howard said that to keep his spot in Detroit, it simply came down to winning.
“It’s just winning, winning hockey games,” he said. “That’s what they expect out of me, that’s what they want me to do. I have to take that upon myself, to go out there and take a lot of pride in it … and win.”
He has certainly managed to back up his words. Howard’s 24 wins leads all rookie goalies by a large margin – Boston’s Tuukka Rask is second with 14 wins.
Howard’s win total has helped keep the Red Wings in the playoff race, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.
“He’s the one who’s keeping us in the race,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall
said. “We’ve had some injuries and we’re not playing the way we want to, but Jimmy’s always giving us a chance to win, regardless of how we play.”
When asked what he would say if he had the chance to lobby for his goalie to win the Calder, defenseman Brad Stuart
said he would point to how Howard has kept the Wings within reach of the playoffs.
“You just have to look at what he’s meant to our team,” Stuart said. “He’s played the majority of the games for us, played very well, kept us in some of those games, and given all those injuries we’ve had, we’ve been able to hang around a playoff spot, he’s been very important to the success of this team. Without him, I don’t know.”
Rookie forward Darren Helm
said Howard has found success because of his ability to stay focused through the ebbs and flows of the grueling regular-season.
“His position is one of the hardest in sports,” Helm said. “You’re looked at a lot when things are going good, you’re looked at as a big part of it, and then when things are going bad you get a lot of heat.
“He’s taken it all in stride, he’s stayed pretty even keel, and that’s a tough thing to do when things are going good and bad. He’s doing a great job at it, and he’s been playing well through all that.”
The NHL Awards Show will take place in Las Vegas on June 23. Howard said just a trip to Nevada would be great.
“Oh yeah, it would be a blast, I’d like that,” he said.