I agree. And Howard played amazing for most of the season prior to being injured. However, that doesn't change or excuse the fact that he has not merely been outplayed by a superior goaltender, but been another layer of soft on an increasing easier team to beat. Simple way to tell how the goaltending his doing, GAA or SV% aside: when you see a decent chance for the opposition developing, do you expect a save or a goal? Every chance Nashville has had this season I have grown to expect in the back of the net, and he hasn't proven me wrong yet.
Howard is not the number one issue on this team, but he is a player that should be playing a great deal better. The Wings were never going to score bushels of goals on Rinne. This series was going to be attrition, but what does allowing 3(4) goals on considerably less shots do for a gameplan that came in expecting few goals against a superior goaltender?
Maybe referencing anything from 2008 with this year's team is flawed from the start, but the same thing happened in the series against Nashville then. Ellis was playing absolutely lights out. The Wings carried territorial play, but every single scoring chance the Preds had, they buried on Hasek. Game 5, Osgood comes in and battles Ellis in a game of attrition. Even after the Preds scored with the goalie pulled at the end, Osgood managed to win 2-1. That year, when the Wings weren't starting on time or sagging with a lead, Osgood stopped the puck. When chances happened I expected him to save them. That's the simple difference.
I mean, I'll give you that he hasn't been playing at the level you expect your goalie to be at in the playoffs. Maybe it's injuries or maybe he is struggling in these odd, lopsided affairs which find him seeing no shots for long stretches followed up by an odd-man rush out of nowhere thanks to blown coverage. But he's playing no worse than anyone else (though at times much better) and maybe that's part of the problem too. Everyone's focus just seems off. Everyone seems frazzled. I don't feel like high shot totals is ever a good sign for this team, because it often means that we're scrambling and less focused on quality and more on quantity, sheerly out of desperation and blind hope for a fluke. But anyways, with so many problems up front and likely in the locker room, perhaps it's just wearing off on Howard as well.
Any way you shake it, top to bottom, these Wings don't look like a playoff team. There's just not a lot of poise, and the desperation looks far too frantic as opposed to, I don't know, focused insatiable hunger perhaps? No one on this team has figured out how to push them over the top yet. Still tough for me to fault Howard. I think he may be a bit off from what he's capable of, but I do think he's capable of it, and I wouldn't be shocked if he rose to the occasion when the rest of the team did as well.
In my mind though, absolutely no goalie would carry this team of skaters to the Cup at this point. I don't care who it is from what era, this TEAM has far too many issues to make a Cup run.