Jimmy Howard Injury: Is It a Blessing in Disguise for Detroit Red Wings?

Isaac SmithAnalyst IDecember 13, 2013

UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 29:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings tends net against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on November 29, 2013 in Uniondale, New York. The Red Wings defeated the Islanders 5-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jimmy Howard is having a rough year and can't seem to buy a win recently.

Since November 4, he has a 1-4-5 record and now must miss anywhere from one to two weeks with a knee injury, sustained in Wednesday's practice.

According to Ansar Khan of MLive, Howard doesn't think that "it’s going to be anything over the top where [he's] going to be out a long time," but he won't know for sure until the MRI scheduled for Friday, December 13.

Regardless of the length of the injury, Howard's injury is a blessing in disguise for the Red Wings.


Injury Takes the Focus off of Howard's Play

Jimmy Howard has had a rough stretch of games over the past month. His 1-4-5 record aside, Howard has been seeing his starts drop due to Jonas Gustavsson's stellar play this season.

When a player struggles as Howard has over the past month, it is difficult to get over the hump and move on like he usually can.

UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 29: Jimmy Howard #35  and Jonas Gustavsson #50 of the Detroit Red Wings  meet up following the game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on November 29, 2013 in Uniondale, New York. The Red Wings
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Obvious examples are Howard's last two starts, where the Red Wings saw two-goal leads disappear and finished with just one point in the standings when they could have had four.

Against Philadelphia at home, Detroit blew a 3-1 lead and Howard allowed four straight goals, and Detroit lost 6-3 after the Flyers scored an empty-net goal.

Howard had things on cruise control against the Florida Panthers with a 2-0 lead at the second intermission, but his team broke down in front of him in the third period, and Detroit ended up losing in a shootout.

The bottom line is that Howard has been carrying the load for the Red Wings for the past four seasons and it looks like he could use some time off to re-evaluate his game and clear his head.


Gustavsson's Strong Play Makes His Injury Hurt Less

When a starting goaltender goes down to injury while playing well, it can be a real blow to the team's confidence and record.

When Jimmy Howard went down with an injury, most fans likely shrugged their shoulders. Howard's play throughout the past 10 games has not only been lackluster, it has been a downright disaster.

Pekka Rinne has missed almost two months due to a hip injury and complications stemming from it.
Pekka Rinne has missed almost two months due to a hip injury and complications stemming from it.John Russell/Getty Images

Gustavsson, thankfully, has come to the rescue of the Red Wings, capturing 18 of a possible 22 points for Detroit in the standings during games he started.

Although Howard has four strong seasons over the course of his career, Detroit's coaching staff should just send him away from hockey for a bit to get his mind where it needs to be when his knee is ready to go again.


Timing of Injury Makes It a Non-Disastrous Scenario

With Jimmy Howard seeming to think that this injury isn't a big deal, Red Wings' management and coaching staff can rest easy.

Although the results of his injury are still pending an MRI, Howard has just enough time to get away from hockey to re-focus and help his team when he returns.

This season, some NHL goalies, such as Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick, have had injuries put them out for an extended period of time. According to Howard's self-diagnosis, this will likely not be the case.

A couple of weeks ago when Howard was struggling, head coach Mike Babcock voiced his opinion of his goalie through Red Wings' beat writer Bill Roose.

May 18, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (right) is congratulated by defenseman Brendan Smith (2) after scoring a goal in the third period of game two of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Chicag
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Babcock's confidence in or dependency on his No. 1 goaltender should go a long way to helping Howard find his game again once he returns.



Some Red Wings got off to a rough start this season.

Johan Franzen had two goals and five points in his first 13 games before getting injured. Since his injury, Franzen has 18 points in 15 games, with a point in 12 of those 15 contests.

Brendan Smith had a similar emergence, as he was a minus-seven with one assist in 11 games before an injury sidelined him for more than two weeks. Since his return, Smith has three assists and a plus-four rating in 12 games.

That doesn't even tell the whole story for Smith, though, who has been even better of late. In his last nine contests, he has three assists with a plus-seven rating.

The bottom line for Howard is that this injury could benefit him in the same way. While some goalies grow rusty from not playing for a while, Howard wasn't exactly at the top of his game when he got injured.

This injury should provide nothing more than a chance for Howard to re-focus and get his mind away from hockey for a bit.


All statistics via NHL.com.