Better Know Thy Enemy: Goalie Preview

That's one way to get the puck by him. - Dave Sandford

Jimmy Howard owns the Ducks. So naturally we're facing his Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

As a Ducks fan, no other name in the league brings me as much frustration as this one:

Jimmy Howard.

He always seems eminently beatable, and yet we never can best him. Howard’s hyper aggressive style seems like it would be so easy to beat (note to offense, make quick passes from the point down low for easy goals), and yet he stymies us over and over. In short, watching games against Howard makes me want to pull my hair out.

Before I get myself too worked up, let’s take a look at the Red Wings’ goalie situation.

On the Season

Detroit saw three goalies suit up for them this season, due to a series of injuries to planned backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. Here’s how they fared over the year.

Games Played


Record


Shutouts


GAA


Save Percentage


Shots Against per Game


Jimmy Howard

42

21-13-7

5

2.13

.923

26.9

Jonas Gustavsson

7

2-2-1

0

2.92

.879

20

Petr Mrazek

2

1-1-0

0

2.02

.922

25.6

Howard’s stats reflect another strong season for the netminder, with his GAA putting him at 9th overall in the NHL. His 2012-2013 season could probably be considered his best ever as an NHL starter. So yay for that. And in case you’re wondering, Howard’s GAA and Save % are better than both Fasth (2.18, .921) and Hiller (2.36, .913) on the year.

Jonas Gustavsson didn’t do much as a backup (partially due to his frequent injuries), but rookie Petr Mrazek dazzled during his brief call-up in February.

As best as I can tell, the Red Wings will carry Howard and Gustavsson into the playoffs. Their website doesn’t show Mrazek on the roster and since his Grand Rapids Griffins are currently playing in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, it’s safe to say he probably won’t be seeing time against the Ducks.

Playoff Experience

Among Detroit’s goalies, only Howard has playoff experience at the NHL level. He has 28 career playoff games under his belt, with a career .915 save percentage and 2.63 GAA in the second season. In his 28 games, Howard has gone 13-15, with 2010-2011 as his best effort in the playoffs (he went 7-4). In a first-round matchup last season against Nashville, Howard was torched by the Predators to the tune of a 1-4 record and an ugly .888 save percentage to go with a pedestrian 2.64 GAA. As Ducks fans, we can only hope that this iteration of Jimmy Howard shows up for Detroit in the coming week(s).

Against the Ducks

Howard started all three games against the Ducks this year, going 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and a ridiculous .942 (!!!) save percentage. While the Ducks touched him up for four goals on February 15, he held Anaheim to only two goals combined over their next two starts (March 22 and 24). In those three games, Howard faced and average of 34.7 shots a game, meaning Anaheim was able to throw lots of rubber at him, just not much through him.

His career numbers against the Ducks are where all of my frustration comes from. In 13 career games against Anaheim, Howard holds an overall 9-3-1 record. He also sports a minuscule GAA of 2.00 and a stellar .933 save percentage. The scary thing is that those numbers only rank 9th and 8th respectively in terms of his career performances against all teams.

Gulp.

In those 13 career games, Howard has been bested only three times by Anaheim power plays. As Ducks fans, we probably shouldn’t count on getting many power plays against Detroit anyway (won’t that be a constant source of frustration throughout the series), but it’s not exactly encouraging to know that the man-advantage may not pan out to be much of an advantage.

Conclusion

I really didn’t want a first-round matchup against Detroit, and it was for this very reason. Simply said, Jimmy Howard owns us. While we did manage to beat him once this year, consider my optimism extremely muted about our chances to hang lots of goals on Howard. If the Ducks are to win this series (and I believe they will), they’ll have to make the most of their chances when they get them and do everything they can to limit Detroit’s offense.

So while I’m focusing a lot on Jimmy Howard, I have a feeling that Jonas Hiller will play the most important role in this series.

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