The Detroit Red Wings’ playoff hopes begin and end with goaltender Jimmy Howard.
It would be nice if one of Detroit’s skilled forwards suddenly regained his goal-scoring touch, which would take some of the burden off of Howard.
But realistically, which forward seems ready to step up and be a goal-scoring machine?
Except for Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, there isn’t another forward on the team who’s shown the ability this season to deliver in crucial moments.
Even Datsyuk (13 goals) and Zetterberg (9 goals) have been so sporadic that it’s difficult to foresee either one becoming an offensive juggernaut during the season’s final week.
Detroit’s lack of any secondary scoring coupled with inconsistent production from skilled players such as Johan Franzen, Damien Brunner and Val Filppula make it hard to believe in a sudden Midas touch.
Even if injured forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson return to the lineup down the stretch, the chances of them being goal-scoring contributors is wishful thinking.
This is Howard’s week.
Detroit’s goalie has been solid most of this season, but his lapses in concentration and inability to steal a shootout have made it imperative that he plays the best hockey of his life beginning Monday night against Phoenix.
Howard needs to play at a level that we haven’t witnessed. He cannot be simply good or very good; he must be great.
It’s not a secret that Howard plays the one position that can influence the outcome of a game more than any other on the ice. He must emerge as an elite-level goalie this week, whether it’s back-to-back shutouts, a goals-against average of under 1.00 or a game-winning save in OT or a shootout.
Howard is intensely competitive, and if you measured success with how a player feels, he’d be a superstar. But success is not judged on how you feel; it’s judged on what you do.