I don't think Howard's great or as good as his biggest fans here do, but he's at the very least more than capable of being an above average to very good goalie, and he has shown that he's capable of greatness in certain moments. I also feel like he's gotten a raw deal here from the start too.
Babcock's consistently rode him very hard, rarely giving him a break, especially in his first couple years when he should've been given a lower-pressure role to adjust to the NHL, and he should not have been dropped into the playoffs as early as he was. I tend to think that he'd be a bit steadier now if he had been given a smoother transition into the NHL. And again, just day to day, I think he'd be a bit better if given breaks a little more often. I think Babcock does a lot of things right, but I don't like the way he manages goalies.
Obviously it's a rough situation right now with injuries and McCollum and a shortened schedule and more pressure, but I just don't think it's good to have your goalie starting the vast majority of games unless he's one of the very few elite goalies who have proven that they can handle it. Those goalies proved it in the playoffs; Howard hasn't done that yet. But like I said, I don't think he's had a fair shake heading into the playoffs. He was the only bright spot last year in the playoffs, but that's unfortunately not saying much either.
In any event, I don't think you can hold much of what's gone on this season against him. He's been fairly good with a crap team in front of him that gets crappier with every injury. And he hasn't gotten a single break this year so far!!! Just because he's not stealing every game and racking up shutouts against all odds this season doesn't make him "average."