Just when everyone was counting him out, when it seemed assured that Petr Mrazek had taken the #1 spot from him two years ahead of schedule, here are the Detroit Red Wings parking #34 and starting #35 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
I got to see it first-hand last Tuesday, when Mrazek got the start against my hometown Montréal Canadiens but was pulled midway through the first period, with Jimmy Howard coming close to pulling an upset after starting with a 2-0 deficit.
Is Howard a top-100 goalie in the world? Absolutely? Top-30? For sure. Top-10? Probably not.
My top-tier consists of Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, and Pekka Rinne rounds up the top-three most years; Braden Holtby seems like he wants to be part of that group and is well deserving of Rinne's spot this year.
The rest of the "truly elite" has Roberto Luongo, Carey Price (for now), Ben Bishop and Marc-André Fleury. Perhaps also Corey Crawford.
The rest of my top-10 features guys who can, once in a while, contend for recognition (close to a Vezina, close to a Conn Smythe, All-Stars), are mostly consistent but have one caveat (injury-prone, plays on very-defensive teams, etc.): Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Craig Anderson, Cory Schneider. John Gibson with one more season under his belt will be in this conversation.
That's more than ten right there, and that's not counting Olympian and past Vezina winner Tuukka Rask and nominee Devan Dubnyk.
But take Howard now and drop him in 1999-2000 and he's among the best of the best. I really liked watching him last week, going toe-to-toe and glove save to glove save with the Habs' Mike Condon, not letting the rookie get the upper hand easily. He had some fight in him, and I appreciate that in a goalie, much more than if he had so calm a demeanor that he'd seem detached and uncaring (like, say, Price).
So here's a tip of the hat to Jimmy Howard, with card #DET-JH from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Black Diamond set and Double Diamond Jersey sub-set: