I don't have a vote for the end of season NHL awards and I doubt that the PHWA is close to awarding me one. I do, however, have a vote in the SB Nation version of the NHL awards that will be cast at the end of the season. I'm not sure who I'm voting for in the race for all of the trophies, but I know for certain that I'm casting my vote for the Hart Memorial Trophy for most valuable player in the NHL for Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Howard will be making his 23rd straight start in goal tonight for Detroit and it's during his starts streak that Detroit has saved their playoff hopes. On the night that Howard's streak began, the Red Wings were 25-28 and sat ninth in the conference, one point behind Calgary. Since handing the reigns to Howard, the Red Wings have gone 14-8 and now sit sixth in the conference, three points behind Nashville with two games in hand.
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That Chris Osgood struggled early in the season isn't news. His save percentage was terrible on a Detroit team that was outshooting their opponents, and it showed in the team's win-loss record.
|2009 - Chris Osgood||22||1193||7||8||59||2.97||536||477||.890||1|
Detroit was outshooting at even strength but losing with Osgood in goal. Osgood was getting shelled on the penalty kill.
|2009 - Jimmy Howard||57||3373||32||15||126||2.24||1702||1576||.926||2|
Then came Jimmy Howard. Looking deeper into the stats, Detroit was outshooting at a better rate with Osgood in goal. Detroit's Corsi percentage in front of Osgood was .547. In front of Howard the rate dips slightly to .532. Osgood's even strength save percentage was a not-so-good .902. To put that in perspective, both Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers have been better at even strength. Chris Osgood, hang your head in shame.
Howard stepped up and has delivered .927 at even strength and he's been one of the three best goalies in the league on the penalty kill.
With Howard in the nets, Detroit has a very good chance to finish fifth in the conference and I doubt that Mike Babcock will take Howard out of the nets unless the last game of the season is meaningless. Howard's starts streak should stretch all the way to 29 games.
None of this means that Jimmy Howard will be able to deliver these results over the long term. None of this suggests that Howard deserves a multi-year multi-million dollar contract that NHL general managers seem to love to hand out to goaltenders. All I'm saying is that this year Jimmy Howard saved the Red Wings season and for that he deserves the Hart Trophy.