Babcock: ‘If we get good goaltending, we’re going to have an opportunity’

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Despite being forced to deal with numerous injuries to star players, the Detroit Red Wings will participate in the playoffs for the 23rd straight time.

Today, coach Mike Babcock spoke about that accomplishment, and what it means going forward.

“What you’ve done it set yourself up with an opportunity,” Babcock said, per MLive.com. “The great thing about the playoffs in our league, you win one game of the two on the road when you’re the lower seed now you have home-ice advantage and everything you’ve done all year is all go. To me that’s what it’s about. It’s about putting pressure on the higher seed, finding a way to grind out wins. We’re going to need good goaltending out of [Jimmy Howard]. If we get good goaltending, we’re going to have an opportunity.”

That last part is worth expanding on. Because while Howard has been solid lately — he’s won his last four games with a combined save percentage of .929 — his overall save percentage of .910 ranks just 34th out of the NHL’s 49 regular goalies.

Now 30 years old, Howard earned a good deal of respect with his play last year. But it’s only fair to say he hasn’t played like an elite goalie this season. In fact, only Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec has played more minutes than Howard while stopping a lower percentage of shots.

Which is to say, Wings fans will be hoping it’s Howard’s most recent form that he brings into the playoffs, where Detroit will first face either Boston or Pittsburgh, two of the highest-scoring teams in the league.