Apr 20, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard (35) makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 2-1 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to Red Wings’ Playoff Push: Goaltending

Goaltending has actually been the least of the Red Wings’ worries this season, minus the first month or so when Jonas Gustavsson went down with an injury and the Red Wings had to call up Petr Mrazek to be a backup.

Jimmy Howard has carried this team this season, of that there is no question. Show anyone who says otherwise a reel of highlights of game-changing saves that kept the Red Wings within a goal or two (or tied), and then smack them for thinking Howard’s play has been sub-par and the reason the Red Wings currently sit in ninth in the West.

The past few games, Howard has not looked up to his usual standard. In last Wednesday’s game against the Calgary Flames, especially, because he let his frustration get to him. Rather than realize his own downfall in the game, he seemed to take it out on his teammates. Rather than keeping a cool head and not letting it get under his skin, he exploded. That’s not something fans see very often.

Howard has a mentality very similar to Dominik Hasek (hear me out, people). He may let in two goals in a game and let the opposition go up 2-0, but more often than not, that’s all the opposing offense is going to get. He shuts it down and keeps his team in the running still. A 2-0 deficit is much more manageable than a 3-0 or 4-0 one. Hasek used to do that quite a lot, despite the amount of heart attacks he may have given us time and time again.

One concern I’ve heard thrown around is that Jimmy Howard has not made it past the second round of the playoffs. While this should be a little concerning, go back and watch highlights from last year’s first round against the Nashville Predators. He was the reason the games were so close. He was the reason the Red Wings didn’t get swept. I have a customer who hates Howard with a passion and after the Wings were ousted, he came in and said, “We hung Howard out to dry. That kid played his heart out.”

Take a look at the standings in the West. While the Red Wings may be sitting three points out of eighth place, they also sit three points out of seventh with two games at hand on Columbus (eighth) and a game at hand on Minnesota (seventh). The doors to the playoffs have not closed on us yet. There’s still a solid chance of making it.

Besides, if it comes to playoff matchups, Anaheim doesn’t scare me. But Chicago does. But back to the point at hand…

If Howard can stay hot and remain as consistent as he has been the entire season, goaltending will definitely remain the least of the Red Wings’ worries. Howard will keep the Red Wings in close games. The solution will fall on the plates of the offense and the offensive defense.

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