Jim Bedard, the Red Wings’ goaltending coach, was in Ithaca, N.Y., scouting an 18-and-under hockey game. He was there to watch a goalie from one team, but the one at the other end of the rink caught his eye. At the time, Bedard didn’t even know this kid’s name. “I was amazed at his patience,” Bedard said. “His composure. How strong he was on his feet and he didn’t give up the ice.” On the drive home, Bedard called Jim Nill, the Wings’ former assistant general manager. “I think we just found a goalie,” Bedard remembers saying. The kid’s name? Jimmy Howard. The Wings started scouting him hard. On most nights, Howard gave his team a chance to win. The Wings liked Howard’s instincts. His mentality. His athleticism. And his composure. He needed some work on his skating, to get it up to the NHL level, but they loved how he fought and competed every night. So they took Howard in the second round of the 2003 draft — 12 spots after the Blackhawks took Corey Crawford. Fast forward 11 years. Howard, now 29, helped the Wings survive a rocky regular season and he has led them into the second round against Chicago. Against Crawford. The series is even, heading into tonight’s showdown in the Joe. In the first game of the series against Chicago, Howard was brilliant. He looked like he was living inside a pinball machine. Shots came from every direction. He had 38 saves — single-handedly keeping the Wings in the game — but the Blackhawks pulled away with a 4-1 victory. In Game 2, Howard did a wonderful job of fighting the urge to fall asleep. No, wait. I’m kidding. He wasn’t challenged as much, but he still made some quality saves in a 4-1 victory. “He didn’t have to win us the game for once,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We know he will be tested in this series and he needs to continue to battle and play his part.” Howard’s best attributes might be his attitude and competitiveness. He gets ticked off when he lets in a goal, even in practice. “He’s a fierce competitor,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s tough to score on him in practice.” Then again, Howard has something else that compliments that competitiveness. “He has a goalie memory,” Bedard said, “and it’s very short.” For Howard, the defining moment of the season and the great test of his memory happened over two days in the middle of April. On April 16, he signed a six-year, $31.8-million contract.
Game after game, Red Wings' Jimmy Howard shows his mettle, leadership
Detroit Free Press | May 20