Detroit — There’s something to be said for finding your niche and sticking to it. That’s what Tomas Holmstrom has done for the last 13 seasons.
Despite all the abuse he takes, despite getting called for goaltender interference on a regular basis, Holmstrom said he never gets tired of parking his 6-foot, 198-pound frame in front of the opposing goaltender and making that guy’s life miserable.
If not for Holmstrom Tuesday night against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, the Red Wings would have lost. Instead, Holmstrom went to his office and scored two of his patented goals from right in front of Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason in a 4-3 win.
The two points moved them back into sixth in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the idle Los Angeles Kings.
Both of Holmstrom’s goals came on the power play, giving him 13 power-play markers among his 24. They came 40 seconds apart in the third period after a lackluster first two periods for the Wings.
“It was really disappointing, especially the first period,” Holmstrom said. “We still got the first goal but we didn’t play good at all. We were coughing up pucks, I think we had 17 turnovers in the first period. Lucky we pulled this one out.”
The Wings are lucky they have Holmstrom, who was just named Detroit’s nominee for the Masterton Trophy, which is for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Holmstrom missed 13 games in January after he broke his foot in practice doing what he has always done — practicing deflecting shots in front of the net. The Wings went 5-4-4 without him.
“You kind of get spoiled because he does it so well night in and night out,” Niklas Kronwall said. “The times you notice it is when he’s not in the lineup. Fortunately for us, he was hurt this year but he’s back in the lineup and he’s playing real well for us.”
Rookie Jimmy Howard said Holmstrom has helped him become a better goaltender.
“That’s one thing I enjoy, actually, is practicing with him in practice because he’s one of the best in the game — if not the best — standing in front and deflecting pucks,” Howard said. “It’s very beneficial for me to have him on my side.
“I don’t have much fun with him in practice when he’s doing it because he seems to get a stick on everything so I know it’s got to be an absolute headache for the opposing goalies when he’s standing down there.”
Mason can attest to that.
The Blue Jackets insisted that Holmstrom had backed into Mason on his first goal, but the play stood.
“He’s been doing that for 15 years, however long,” Blue Jackets defenseman Mike Commodore said. “He’s probably not going to change.”
Nicklas Lidstrom, who was originally credited with what turned out to be Holmstrom’s second goal, said the Wings don’t want Holmstrom to change one bit.
“He found his job and his spot on the team, and he’s been one of the best in the league at it, too, the way he can deflect pucks,” Lidstrom said. “He always seems to be right in front of the goalie. He doesn’t go to his side a little bit. He’s always right there in that spot.”
Lidstrom didn’t seem to mind that instead of getting his 10th goal, Holmstrom got his 24th of the season.
“He’s so good at it that you almost expect him to get a stick on it or be there to screen a goalie,” Lidstrom said. “That’s been his job since day one and he hasn’t slowed down at all. I think he’s just getting better and better at it.”
Holmstrom has three goals and six assists in his last five games, which is just what the Wings want as they prepare for the playoffs.
“It’s good to get on a roll going into the playoffs,” Howard said. “We just need to build off this. Friday night (in Columbus) I think we need to stick to our game plan a little bit better, start playoff hockey and that’s getting the pucks in deep and just work them, throwing them to the net and getting dirty goals.”
Fortunately, that just happens to be Holmstrom’s specialty.