The Detroit Red Wings have announced that Jimmy Howard will be the starting goalie on Wednesday in the 2016 National Hockey League Stanley Cup Playoffs for Game 1 of the first round battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
According to John Niyo of the Detroit News, Howard was expected to start between the pipes, but now it is official. Howard finished the 2015-2016 regular season with a 2.80 goals against average and a .906 save percentage across 37 games played.
For a time throughout the season it looked like Petr Mrazek would end up with the starting role during the playoffs. Howard, however, helped the Red Wings get to the playoffs when Mrazek was struggling down the stretch.
The Red Wings have a tough first round matchup with the Lightning, but head coach Jeff Blashill believes the team will have a serious chance at an upset.
"I like our confidence, defensively, now better," he said. "I think confidence is a big thing in managing the puck. You don't want to, obviously, turn pucks over, but you also don't want to just throw the puck away all night. Because if you do that, it's the equivalent, really, of turning the puck over.
"When you're confident, you tend to do a better job in those situations."
Howard will start against Ben Bishop of Tampa Bay. Bishop went 35-21 in 61 games played during the 2015-2016 regular season. The 29-year-old owned a 2.18 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
While Detroit is healthy, Tampa Bay will be without leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos, who is out with a blood clot. At the same time, Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman will not be active due to a broken leg. The Red Wings will look to take advance of the devastating injuries that the Lighting will deal with during the course of the playoffs.
The 2016 NHL Playoffs will be the second straight season the Red Wings take on the Lighting in the first round. With Mike Babcock as head coach, Detroit lost last year's series in seven games. This season it is Blashill's turn to try and defeat Tampa Bay.
"They're really, really good," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said regarding the Red Wings. "With the coaching change, nothing has really changed. They made the playoffs again. They won the big games they had to. They play the same system.
"It's just a no-space game, like playing the game in a closet. You really have to fight for every inch out there. I know it's going to be one of those series."