Former University of Maine All-American goaltender Jimmy Howard said he was surprised that he was named the Detroit Red Wings representative to the National Hockey League All-Star game on Jan. 26 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
“I was shocked. (Red Wings center) Dylan Larkin would have been my pick,” said Howard, who is one of two goalies from the Atlantic Division along with Montreal’s Carey Price.
This will be the fourth season of the 3-on-3 play between the league’s four divisions. Howard and Price will be joined on the Atlantic Division team by forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay, Auston Matthews and John Tavares of Toronto, Jack Eichel of Buffalo, Dave Pastrnak of Boston and defensemen Thomas Chabot of Ottawa and Florida’s Keith Yandle.
This is Howard’s third All-Star game, though he couldn’t play in the 2015 game when he suffered a groin injury. He was also selected in 2012.
Howard, who turns 35 on March 26, said this All-Star game selection
feels the best.
“I was close to being out of the league with the way I had been playing,” Howard said. “I put in a lot of hard work, and I adjusted my game to make it better.”
He is even more excited for his sons James Howard IV, 7, and Henry, 4, who will accompany their dad and mother Rachel to San Jose. Rachel Howard is a Hampden native. The couple also has an 8-month-old daughter Olivia.
The family has a summer home on Green Lake in Dedham.
“My boys love hockey and they’ve gotten to know the players. They would disown me if I didn’t take them,” Howard said.
Howard has a 10-10-5 record this season with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
He is coming off one of his his worst seasons as a pro during which he was 22-27-9 with a 2.85 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
His save percentage so far this season is his second-best over the last six campaigns.
Howard said the adjustment in his game took him back to his days in Orono.
“To be honest, I’m playing more like I did in college now,” Howard said. “I’m more patient. I’m not as aggressive.”
He explained that the game is a lot faster now and the young players have exceptional stickhandling skills and shots.
That means goalies need to limit their movement and track the puck while maintaining good positioning and balance and playing the proper angles.
“If you’re chasing it, you’re in big trouble,” Howard said.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure,” the native of Ogdensburg, New York, said. “It takes a lot of work and time to feel comfortable.”
Howard has spent parts of 13 seasons in the NHL and has appeared in 465 games. He has a 231-161-68 record with a 2.50 GAA and a .915 save percentage.
This is Howard’s final season under contract but he hopes to re-sign with Detroit for at least two more years.
“By then, I’ll be 37 and we’ll see what happens after that,” Howard said.
He has been happy with his season overall, though he and the struggling and youthful Red Wings are 1-10 in their last 11 games including two shootout losses and an overtime loss.
“The bounces haven’t been going my way like they were earlier this season,” Howard, who is backed up by former Lewiston Maineiacs goalie Jonathan Bernier, said. “But I’m not going to go out and try to reinvent the wheel after a couple of tough starts. I’ve got to be a little more intense in practice and follow the puck better. I’ll come out of it.”