Jimmy Howard’s 25-save shutout in Game 1 of the Detroit-Boston series earned plenty of praise, perhaps none higher than the stuff Daniel Alfredsson heaped on.
“Our goaltender was outstanding,” Alfredsson said, per MLive.com. “Theirs was really good. It was one individual effort that made the difference today.”
Howard’s shutout, the third of his playoff career, came in a game where goals and scoring chances were at a premium. Afterward, players from both sides remarked on how tight-checking and suffocating the style of play was at times — following an opening period in which the two teams combined for 20 shots, both the Wings and Bruins tightened up over the final 40 minutes and combined for a mere 29 shots on goal in the second and third periods.
“There weren’t any secrets in tonight’s game,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams played tight — don’t think there was any surprise out there today. Everybody’s got to find a way to create more, and that’s going to be the challenge in this series.”
Another challenge, at least following Game 1, is figuring out how to beat Howard.
While a 25-save shutout behind a tight-checking unit isn’t the stuff of legend, Howard’s play is still a positive development for Detroit. One, the team will be pleased to see him playing well after a so-so regular season in which his GAA ballooned to 2.66 — this after going 2.13 and 2.12 in each of the last two seasons — while his save percentage dipped to .910 (after a career-best .923 in 2013).
Two, it could be a return to the playoff form.
Howard was a major catalyst for Detroit’s run to the Western Conference semis, pushing eventual Cup champs Chicago to overtime of Game 7. He actually bettered his regular-season save percentage in the playoffs (.924) and, despite facing an average of 33 shots per game against the ‘Hawks, only allowed 15 goals over the seven games and finished with a .937 save percentage.
Wings head coach Mike Babcock alluded to Howard’s history of postseason success in the post-game presser.
“He’s done it for us in the past in playoff time,” Babcock said. “We just expect it.”