While Red Wings
goalie Jimmy Howard
became only the fourth rookie goalie in franchise history to post a 30-win season, there's another reason he should be considered the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy. Without him, the Red Wings might not have even qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Howard appeared in 63 games during the 2009-10 regular-season, finishing with 37 wins (tied for eighth in the NHL), a 2.26 goals-against average (fifth), a .924 save percentage (fourth) and three shutouts.
"Up until the Olympic break he might have been our most valuable player," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "I think he's a legitimate candidate for rookie of the year. The biggest thing he's done this year is he's been way more consistent. You could see his confidence growing as the year wore on. At 26, he's really just coming into his prime."
Howard joined Hall of Famers Glenn Hall
(30 in 1955-56), Terry Sawchuk
(44 in 1950-51) and Roger Crozier
(40 in 1964-65) as the only first-year goalies in Detroit to win 30-plus games. Crozier was the last Red Wing, in fact, to win the Calder Trophy.
"I'm very happy to be a part of the Red Wings' organization," Howard said. "My coaches and teammates, in particular, Jim Bedard and Chris Osgood
, really helped me along through my first full season in the NHL. I'm already looking forward to 2010-11."
Howard's 25 consecutive starts were the most by a first-year goalie since Connie Dion
suited up for 26 straight in 1943-44. He made quite the turnaround, too, after his opening-night debacle in St. Louis on Oct. 3 when he allowed five goals on 32 shots in a 5-3 loss.
Howard, Detroit's first selection (second round, No. 64) of the 2003 Entry Draft, finished 5-7 with a 2.75 GAA and .915 save percentage in 12 Stanley Cup playoff games this spring. The Wings eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes
in a grueling seven-game series in the Western Conference quarterfinals before bowing to the San Jose Sharks
in a five-game series in the conference semifinals.