"Twenty-three little Indians all standing on a plank...."
Things began to change for Jimmy Howard in the 2011 playoffs. Detroit swept Phoenix in the first round and entered their 2nd round series with San Jose fully rested this time. Howard had been solid, if unspectacular against the Coyotes but he was a revelation against San Jose. The Wings were badly outplayed in the Shark Tank but Howard stopped 79 of 83 shots in a pair of 2-1 losses. Both teams played awful defense in game 3, forcing Niemi to make 41 saves and Howard to respond with 38 of his own but once again the Wings lost despite the efforts of number 35. Miraculously the Wings began to the turn the series around; in no small part due to the stellar play of Howard. They clawed back 3 consecutive games to extend the series to it's maximum before eventually bowing out 3-2 back in San Jose. Though the Wings had been knocked out of the tournament only the truly delusional continued to blame Howard. Nobody was entirely sure yet, but after watching Jimmy come oh so close to imposing his will on the San Jose Sharks there was a lurking suspicion in Detroit that this might only be the beginning.
As I write this game 5 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks is about to begin on the screen in front of me. While I won't go out and predict a Red Wings victory it's hard not to feel that Detroit will ultimately win this series. Part of that is the confidence that comes from a 3-1 series lead; simple odds state Detroit should advance at this point. Anyone who has watched the series however knows that the match record does not tell the whole story. Chicago has by and large outplayed Detroit and deserve to be in a better position than they are. What they haven't done however is solve the riddle of Jimmy Howard and now that they are staggered and gasping for air it's hard to envision a scenario where they eventually will. The Blackhawks are finished, hockey's equivalent to the Walking Dead. Jimmy Howard killed them all and my God has it been beautiful to watch folks.
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper.
- The Sportsball Chic