Often in the preseason coach Jeff Blashill would say how important it was for the Red Wings to get elite goaltending.
Each and every night, whether it was Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek, the Red Wings need their goaltender to be one of their best players, Blashill said.
If not the best player on the ice.
The position is that important in today’s NHL.
In two games this regular season — Saturday’s 2-1 shootout victory in Ottawa the latest example — Jimmy Howard has been, easily, one of the Red Wings’ best players.
If not their best player.
And the Red Wings have won two straight games because of it.
Martin Frk registered his second goal in two games this season and Frans Nielsen was the only goal-scorer in the shootout, as the Red Wings secured a hard-fought victory.
The penalty killing was fantastic, killing all seven Ottawa power plays.
But it goes back to Howard, it went back to Howard, time and again.
Howard made 37 stops Saturday as the Red Wings defeated Ottawa — he made 37 saves in Game 1 against Minnesota — and has looked as dialed in as he did last winter.
The primary reason the Red Wings won Saturday’s game?
“Jimmy Howard,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg told Fox Sports Detroit after Saturday’s victory.
Two games is a very, very small sample size but for the Red Wings, it’s certainly a nice feeling seeing Howard get off to such a promising, dominant start.
Like last season, Howard has looked calm and collected in net with an aura of confidence that maybe had been lost over time.
You didn’t get the sense very often Saturday that Ottawa was going to get a puck past Howard.
“Just keeping it simple and quiet,” Howard told FSD, about his game plan against the Senators. “Not overdoing anything in there.”
Howard stopped all three Ottawa shots in the shootout, continuing the Red Wings’ incredibly successful run since last season.
The Red Wings were 9-0 in shootouts last season.
They earned their first one of this season Saturday.
“We do it in practice now just about every practice,” Howard said. “When it comes to that situation, you’re not overthinking anything. You just let them (shooters) make the first move.”
Dylan Larkin was superb, a force in every part of the ice, and the penalty kill was again perfect.
But for Blashill, along with Howard’s play, it was the way the Red Wings competed that was so promising.
“Our compete level was extraordinarily high,” Blashill told FSD. “If our compete level is that high, we’ll be a good hockey team. We have to continue.”
It’s only two games, but you have to start somewhere.
There will be a lot of evenings when the result won’t be as good.
But if your goaltender can give you a chance to win, that’s half the battle.
Jimmy Howard has given the Red Wings a chance, and they’ve capitalized.