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.”
Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets
Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.
Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.
Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.
This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.
But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)
The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.
Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).
In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.
You might even be tempted to believe the hype.
Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points
If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.
It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.
Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:
Central Division title chase
1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)
Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.
Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).
The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.
Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers
It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.
Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.
He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.
Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.
On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:
It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.
Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?
The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.
This tweet might only live for a few minutes, but the Ottawa Senators are in first place in the Atlantic Division.
It’s been a nice milestone night for young Jets scorers, as Nikolaj Ehlers also scored his 20th goal of 2016-17.
That 30th goal came less than 30 seconds after Leo Komarov‘s second goal of the contest, putting Winnipeg up 4-3 heading into the third period. For all we know, the Jets might need even more from Laine tonight.