A consummate professional, Jimmy Howard kept his cool upon losing his starting job to Petr Mrazek during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, and the American netminder graciously remained in a backup role to open the 2016-17 campaign while focusing on being more patient and composed in the cage. The playing-style tweak would end up invigorating the veteran in dramatic fashion. Howard went from posting the weakest ratios of his full-time career to a banner season that included a 2.10 GAA and .927 save percentage -- despite having to battle through groin and knee injuries, the latter of which was a sprained MCL that came with a few setbacks. Howard finished with a 10-11-1 record and a single shutout over 24 starts and 26 total appearances for a team that encountered an eye-popping 307 man games lost. Not only did he reclaim the starting job in short order, Howard wound up on Detroit's list of players untouchable by Vegas for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft -- unlike Mrazek, who finished with an underwhelming 3.04 GAA and .901 save mark. Second-year puck plugger Jared Coreau is champing at the bit for more time in the NHL, but this is once again Howard's job to lose. Consider drafting him as a low-end No. 1 fantasy goalie.
Howard halted 19 of 20 shots in Saturday's 5-1 preseason win over the Bruins. This was the first Wings game played at the brand new Little Caesars Arena, and Howard did a little testing of the acoustics by putting on a show in front of the raucous home crowd. Okay, so maybe the Bruins didn't pose much of a threat with such a light volume of shots, but nonetheless, Howard needed this one after yielding three goals on 25 shots in half of a game versus the Penguins on Wednesday. Secondary backstop Petr Mrazek has a putrid .869 save percentage through two preseason outings, and that's certainly not going to help him press Howard for starts once the regular season rolls around.
Howard surrendered three goals on 25 shots Wednesday in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Penguins, an exhibition road showing. He was replaced by AHLer Tom McCollum after 32:22 between the pipes. It was a busy night for Howard, as he came one shot shy of approaching his per-game average from the 2016-17 season. Making matters worse, the Wings lacked discipline with a whopping 10 penalties called against them -- this put Howard in front of 10 power-play shots, and he managed to stop all but one. After posting a 24-10-11 record in an injury-shortened 2016-17 campaign, Howard will enter 2017-18 as the undisputed No. 1 for Detroit. However, there's a serious lack of depth on the team's blue line, which makes him a low-end fantasy option as far as starters go.
Howard will enter next season as Detroit's starting goaltender, TSN reports. Two key factors heavily influenced Howard's return to the starter's role after the wheels fell off during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. For one, he turned back the clock last season with career bests in GAA (2.10) and save percentage (.927), despite being limited to 26 games because of groin and knee injuries. Meanwhile, Petr Mrazek -- an aggressive backstop who's eight years younger than Howard -- went the completely opposite direction with a 3.04 GAA and .901 save mark over 50 contests, ending up exposed to the Golden Knights in the expansion draft (though Vegas took forward prospect Tomas Nosek instead). A true professional, it appears that Howard never complained about his role even when demoted, which is a stark contrast to alleged character concerns involving Mrazek. Consider drafting the veteran as a mid-tier backstop who reportedly could log 50-plus games if he stays healthy.
Howard will be protected from the Golden Knights in the upcoming expansion draft, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports. Many thought that Howard would be made available to Vegas and not complementary goalie Petr Mrazek, but the opposite held true. It turns out that Red Wings GM Ken Holland prefers to keep the more experienced of the two goalies versus a younger, cheaper option with more upside at this point in their respective careers. Howard struggled with knee injuries this past season, but was undeniably Detroit's best choice between the pipes when healthy. His final output was a 10-11-1 record, 2.10 GAA and .927 save percentage over 26 games.
Howard is a candidate to be exposed to the expansion draft in June, TSN reports. Simply put, the Red Wings have too much money invested in goalies Howard and Petr Mrazek -- $9.29 million to be exact -- and GM Ken Holland will only be able to protect one netminder. Another option would be to deal one of them this offseason. With Scott Darling moving from Chicago to Carolina and Ben Bishop's contract rights secured by Dallas, it's shaping up to be a weak market for teams still hoping to shore up their goaltending. Howard was brilliant this season, crafting a 2.10 GAA and .927 saving percentage for a squad that was perpetually hobbled, but the veteran backstop was limited to 26 games due to a significant knee injury. The 33-year-old is taking a businesslike approach amid rumors that he could leave Motown, telling reporters: "It's pretty much out of your control. I haven't thought about it because you don't want to stress yourself out. I haven't spoken to anybody about it."
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