Jimmy Howard was understandably upset Friday night after his Detroit Red Wings bowed out of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs -- a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville ended their once-promising season.
In a post-game interview with Fox Sports Detroit's John Keating, Howard admitted fault. He said he "could have played better in Games 1, 3 and 4," adding that he didn't feel he performed up to par as often as he would have liked and didn't have an explanation as to why.
But he wasn't horrible. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne just better.
Howard posted a 35-17-4 record with a .920 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average during his All-Star campaign. His save percentage dipped to .888 in five games against Nashville, and he stopped 103 of 116 shots faced.
Despite that perceived slump, Howard never gave up more than three goals. Under normal circumstances, that would have been enough to keep the Red Wings in the series longer than five games.
But it wasn't. And that wasn't Howard's fault. His team couldn't find the back of the net.
"We didn't help him help us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said during a televised post-game interview with FSD.
The Predators, although out-shot in the series, managed to create better scoring chances. Rinne looked "All-World" according to broadcasters. But he didn't always face the types of shots Howard dealt with. He deserves credit for an incredible stand.
But again, Howard wasn't far-less superior.
Rinne stopped 151 of 160 shots faced and saw 35 or more in three of five games. Great assistance from the defense highlighted Rinne's performances.
Before the blame game starts, one must look at the facts. The Red Wings weren't as deep as the Predators in terms of scoring lines. That factor alone contributed greatly to their first-round loss.
Being a goalie in Detroit is one of the hardest jobs in sports. Crumbling under pressure isn't acceptable for one with such responsibility.
But Howard didn't crumble. The guys in front of him did.
Adam Biggers has followed the National Hockey League for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Red Wings. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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