Given he’s only played nine games in February and March combined, it’s easy to understand why Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard wants to look forward — not back — as he prepares to start against Nashville on Friday.
“I’m just going out there and forgetting about the past here, the last month and a half,” Howard told the Macomb Daily. “I think I’m prepared, I’ve been working hard to get back there, I’ve been working hard on the ice. I’m just going to go out there and play.”
Detroit’s had a rotating door in goal throughout March. It started with Howard recording a 6-0 shutout win over Minnesota, before a reoccurring groin injury put him out of the lineup. That opened the door for Joey MacDonald, the goalie of record in five of the next six games until Howard returned to play in losses to San Jose (on Mar. 17) and Washington (Mar. 19)…before hurting his groin again.
Just one problem — MacDonald had injured his back. That forced Detroit to call up Ty Conklin from Grand Rapids and start him in each of the last four games, because the Wings wanted to make sure they didn’t rush Howard back into action.
Conklin responded well, going 2-1-1, but it’s now Howard’s time to reclaim the net.
“The second time around we took a different approach, more strengthening it, it feels a lot stronger out there,” he said of his groin injury. “I know what I’m capable of doing out there. It’s just going out there and doing it again.
“Everybody wants to feel great going into the playoffs. What’s going to be key for me over the next four games is getting back to where I was before the injuries.
“Today was the date from the start we were targeting. Four to five games left, chance to get back out there and get into game shape.”
The crowd in St. Louis was sent to stunned silence at the scary sight of Nashville Predators rookie Kevin Fiala crashing feet-first into boards during the first period of Game 1.
Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he awkwardly hit the boards following a hit by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. An arena announcement indicated that Fiala will be taken to a nearby hospital.
The Predators announced that Fiala is alert and stable in an update.
It’s a cruel twist for the 20-year-old forward, whose high-end speed stands out most when you first see him. A bit longer than a week ago, he scored the biggest goal of his career as he ended Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the overtime-clincher. Now one has to wonder about his bigger-picture health.
Members of the Blues and Predators both escorted Fiala off the ice during a stunning moment for all involved.
When you put together a list of “clutch” players, do you put Colin Wilson on it?
Before you laugh that question off – which, really, that’s kind of mean – consider how productive the under-the-radar Nashville Predators forward is during the postseason.
In 33 career playoff games, Wilson had 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points. He’s now at 12 goals and 21 points in 34 games after the first period of Game 1, and there is time to add to those totals.
That’s already pretty solid, but consider his regular season: 12 goals and 35 points in 70 games. He’s only scored 20 goals once in his career.
Yet … for whatever reason, when the games get bigger, the 27-year-old has developed a knack for scoring at a much higher clip. In the case of Game 1 against the Blues – his first game of this postseason thanks to injuries – he deflected P.K. Subban‘s booming shot for the 1-0 goal. Watch it above.
And wonder: is it hasty to consider him clutch?
Jeremy Roenick is so impressed by Erik Karlsson, he almost likes him as much as Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion does.
As a reminder, Dorion … didn’t exactly go the humble route in his praise of the all-world defenseman. When speaking of Karlsson’s play through ridiculous injuries, he provided quite the quote, as the Ottawa Citizen reports.
“Was I surprised? A bit,” Dorion said. “What do you say? I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this but, you believe in whatever you believe in, and they always say God rested on the seventh day, I think on the eighth day he created Erik Karlsson.”
Surely Karlsson’s critics will love this.
Anyway, Roenick and Keith Jones had some fun with such comments, as you can see in the video above.
For more genius Swedish fun, enjoy the Henrik Lundqvist video above. That’s a bonus, folks.
The NHL Broadcasters’ Association named the three finalists for the 2017 Jack Adams Award on Wednesday: Mike Babcock, John Tortorella and Todd McLellan.
The Jack Adams is given to the head coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success.”
It might tickle some to realize that Babcock and McLellan once coached together on the Detroit Red Wings’ staff. All three coaches share the distinction of bringing teams to the playoffs who failed to make the postseason in (at least) the previous season.
The Maple Leafs missed from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Columbus failed in its previous two seasons. And, of course, the Oilers hadn’t seen the playoffs since falling in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
One could make an argument for each coach in a number of ways.
Babcock molded a Maple Leafs team topped by young players, showing a refreshing willingness to take the good with the bad (especially for a guy who’s known for his scowl). McLellan broke that Oilers slump, gradually finding a lineup that could be “more than just Connor McDavid.” The Blue Jackets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NHL to the point that they’d get Torts fired; instead, they boasted a power play that baffled opponents for much of the season and Tortorella enacted some (gasp) progressive ideas to help Columbus compete.
Now, you could critique all three in different ways – barely making the playoffs, riding hot goaltending, deploying Connor McDavid – but that’s part of the fun, right? There are certainly some cases to be made for snubs (Bruce Boudreau, perhaps even Joel Quenneville?), yet this trio of finalists is strong nonetheless.
The NHL has a more traditional rundown of each coach’s credentials, by the way.