Jimmy Howard: Hang Up The Boxing Gloves
It is tough to be critical of netminder Jimmy Howard these days. The 27 year old is near or at the top of almost every goalie statistic including a league leading 30 wins through the first half of the NHL season. Beyond the numbers, Howard has been superb. He’s made big save after big save when needed, often at crucial points in the game.
But I will challenge the old adage of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” today and do just that. Although the fans love it, Jimmy Howard needs to cool it with the tough guy antics he’s displayed over the past few seasons.
I believe it all started with a late game scrum in March of 2010. After Penguins Center (crier) Sidney Crosby attacked Henrik Zetterberg in the final seconds of a 3-1 Wings victory, Howard jumped to his teammates aid, throwing Crosby in a headlock and earning praise from the Hockeytown masses.
As you can see from the video, Bertuzzi was right there to protect Zetterberg. But I get it, a heated rival, the play right in front of him. Howard made a decsion and gave the Penguins Captain a facewash for the ages.
Since then, I feel like Jimmy is looking to do this every game. We’ve see it in Vancouver:
And San Jose
And St. Louis
And now St. Louis again
I’m probably alone here. I realize in all these clips he’s either sprayed, or bumped or whatever. But Howard’s job is to stop the puck. As he continues to act like this, teams will realize they can get under his skin and will crash the net agressively.
The scary thing is that we have seen this story before. Ron Hextall broke onto the NHL scene in 1987 winning the Calder (Rookie of the year), Vezina (NHLs best goalie) and Conn Smythe (MVP of playoffs) Trophies despite losing to the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals in 7 games. Hextall was known throughout the league for his revolutionary puck handling ability, as well as his short temper.
As teams learned how to rattle the young goaltender, he got further and futher away from the form that made him an All Star talent upon entering the league. Canadiens coach Jaques Demers famously remarked after beating the Flyers out of the playoffs, “he didn’t reach the level of a Grant Fuhr or a Martin Brodeur [because] he lost his cool if you got in his face.”
Believe me, I love a fight as much as anyone. Probably more than most. But Jimmy needs to keep focused on what he is payed to do. The life of a fighting goalie is sure fun to watch. The fans loved young scrappy Hextall in Philly just as they cheered “Razor” Ray Emery in Ottawa. We know all too well about how Patrick Roy’s agressiveness got the best of him in some playoff series with Detroit.
Howard’s been great. I’d like to see him stay great. Keep the gloves down, let your defenceman take care of you and stop the puck. That’s the recipe to a long and productive NHL career.