Jimmy Howard

Poll: Is Jimmy Howard an elite goalie?


Red Wings day on PHT continues…

The question we’re asking here will partly depend upon how you define elite. Some reserve that label for the top four or five players in the league; others use it a bit more freely.

What’s not debatable is this: In 230 career starts, Jimmy Howard’s save percentage is .918. Among active goalies with more than 100 games played, only four have a higher save percentage than that — Roberto Luongo (.919), Pekka Rinne (.920), Henrik Lundqvist (.920), and Tuukka Rask (.927).

By that measure, it’s hard to call Howard anything but elite. Except we all know a player’s reputation is based largely on what he does in the playoffs.

In 42 career postseason starts, Howard also has a .918 save percentage. However, the Red Wings’ inability to advance past the second round while he’s been their number one has kept the 29-year-old somewhat under the radar from a league perspective.

Howard was brilliant for most of the 2013 playoffs; in fact, he was arguably the biggest reason the Wings were able to take a 3-1 series lead on the eventual champion Blackhawks.

“He’s always had confidence, but there’s something different about it now,” said Wings general manager Ken Holland during the Chicago series, per the New York Times. “He’s calmer, more assured. The play comes to him, and he knows what he needs to do.”

Of course, the Wings were unable to oust the ‘Hawks, eventually falling 2-1 in overtime of Game 7 — a game in which Howard was named second star.

Overall, though, it was a successful year for Howard and his club, which many expected to struggle in its first season without legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

As a result — and combined with the additions of forwards Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson — expectations have been raised for 2013-14.

“You have to have a good goalie to go anywhere in the playoffs,” said Henrik Zetterberg.

“And we have it.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks