Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/5/14
The Detroit Red Wings (19-14-10) went into the heart of Texas and came away with a 5-1 statement win over the Dallas Stars (20-14-7). The 2 points help the Red Wings leap over the Toronto Maples Leafs for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Captain Henrik Zetterberg led the way with 2 goals while Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, and Drew Miller each chipped in with a goal. While the offense was dominate as they capitalized on numerous Stars’ mistakes, they don’t deserve the bulk of the credit for this victory. Jimmy Howard stopping a point blank shot from Antoine Roussel. (Photo Credit: Glenn James / Getty Images) The first star of the game went to the man between the pipes, Jimmy Howard, and for good reason. Howard gave the Red Wings a chance to win the game. He shut down 44 of 45 shots faced including the first 12 of the game. This allowed Zetterberg to give Detroit a 1-0 lead 6:28 into the 1st period on the Red Wings’ first shot attempt of the game. These weren’t easy saves either. Dallas continued to crash the net to create quality scoring chances all night long. But time and time again, Howard rose to the challenge. His only blemish was a goal that got redirected by Daniel Alfredsson as he attempted to block a Dallas blue-line shot. The puck jumped up and just missed Howard’s blocker, tucking inside the near post. Not much he could have done to prevent it. Howard has also backed up his place to be part of the 2014 United States Olympic team. (Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski / USA Today Sports) To keep this brief, for the first time in a long time Howard looked like the long-term goalie the Red Wings paid him to be. So, perhaps a New Year means a new Jimmy Howard. In the first two games of 2014 Howard is 1-0-1 with only 3 goals given up in 125 minutes. He was 6-9-7 with an average of 2.73 goals against per game entering the New Year. “When the clock struck midnight the other night to end 2013, I put everything behind me,” Howard said. “I just said, ‘Here’s a new clean slate and let’s start fresh,’ and I’ve been trying to do that.” A fresh and rejuvenated Jimmy Howard is just what the Red Wings need to make the playoffs and Howard is aware of this as well. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a game like this for the guys. They deserve a lot of them out of me so this is going to be the first of many for me down the stretch,” he said during a post-game interview. Personally, I’m going to say it’s too early to confirm that Howard is back to his old self even though he has been impressive in his last two outings. I need more than a couple of games to determine a player’s form. So, this upcoming California road trip will be the telling sign for me. But I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you think Jimmy Howard has returned (or will return) to his All-Star form to help the Red Wings make the playoffs? You can follow me on Twitter @AEisen13 and while you’re at it, follow @isportsweb. Read more Red Wings rumors, news and opinion on our Detroit Red Wings page.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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