Goaltending is always going to be a question mark to people in Detroit. You name any goalie in our last 4 cup championship teams, and all of them have been under the magnifying glass. Even after they win a cup, no respect is given to them. This is the way it is always going to be in Detroit. Even last year when Howard was solid in net and helping us get into the playoffs, people here and other Wings fans I know never gave him any credit. Today, its no different. If Howard plays amazing, it is what he is supposed to do. Anything less, and its horrible. Being as that no goalie plays at that high of a level every game, there is no goalie who is good enough to goaltend in Detroit.
Are you kidding me? Who wasn't giving Howard credit last year? I don't recall anyone who said much of anything other than he was just about the only reason we even made the playoffs. At most, there were people critiquing certain elements of his game that were problematic. Rebound control has always been an issue that gets attention and he had a tendency of having rather glaring bad games every 5-6 starts, though the other starts tended to be a good to great efforts. but that was about the extent of it. I really don't think anyone knocked Howard's play last year during the regular season and he didn't get the Calder nomination by accident.
That said, once the playoffs kicked in, he took a lot of flack, but that's to be expected when you set such a high standard for your play during the regular season and then you don't even come close to playing at that level in the playoffs when you're really supposed to be elevating your game. And aside from just a generally lackluster performance, he gave up too many soft goals at inopportune times and too many fast back to back goals early on in games. The same type of play got Hasek pulled in 2008.
So of course the fans are going to be upset and doubtful over the summer. Playoffs are everything. If you don't have it in the playoffs, it doesn't matter what you can do in the regular season. That's why this year is so important for him.
And then when you look at this year, there's little you can say to really dispute people who are skeptical. I'm honestly optimistic right now given the last few weeks as I outlined before, and I really would like to see the guy have a successful outing this year, but realistically, I can't make an objective argument to suggest that people are wrong to have concerns heading into the playoffs. He had a rough year any way you shake it, a rough first playoff experience, and it's far too easy (and historically you're far more likely...) to join the rookie year wonder club for goalies. And again, let's not forget that it took him longer to get here at all because he was slow to develop and only got a shot because Detroit was out of minor league options for him.
So again, you can't really sit here and say that no one gave him any credit last year because that is so far from the truth, and you can't completely blame those who are skeptical of him given the way things have progressed over time. At this point, I'm with you in thinking that there's a fair amount to be excited about and I really do like his chances of excelling in this post-season. I think he's bring his game up at the right time and so long as he keeps improving, he's going to be in a real good spot for game 1 of round 1.
If he can battle through the pressure and elevate his game, he'll be successful when it counts, and trust me, you won't be needing to defend him for awhile. In the meantime, I wouldn't pay too much mind to those doubting; they've got objective reasons to be concerned. Just give it time. We'll know a lot by game 4. And by game 5, I think he'll either be in and playing well, or on the bench and on his way to being traded. I don't see a lot of in-between. If he blows it, I don't see the Wings wasting time hoping he'll get it right the 3rd time. He's got a contract that'll be really easy to slide into a deal for a new goalie.
But he's also got the potential to be great, and I think and hope he will be.
Either way, there's little we really know until we get there.