Let’s face it.
Petr Mrazek has won big games for the Detroit Red Wings this season between the pipes, including victories against the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins, with the latest victory coming against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that span, Mrazek won 10 of 14 of his latest NHL starts, allowing two goals or fewer eight times and posting two shutouts in the process.
The 23-year old netminder obviously has a lot of maturity built in him through the AHL and NHL in sparse outings, winning the Calder Cup in 2013 with the Griffins and posting a .925 save percentage in eight starts between 2013 and 2013-14 at the NHL level. This season, with more opportunities to show the Wings what he could do, he’s been solid to say the least, winning 15 games and posting a respectable .915 save percentage in 26 appearances.
With Jimmy Howard struggling (.866 save percentage in March), head coach Mike Babcock has turned to Mrazek again for the past couple games, but hasn’t gotten the results that he and his team want. A 5-4 loss to the Islanders on Sunday saw Mrazek get pulled after allowing four goals on 11 shots. He followed this opportunity up with a valiant 33-save effort against the Senators on Tuesday, but got virtually no offensive support as the team fired just 17 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss.
He’s been doing much of his learning on the fly this season, and in the midst of a goalie quandary that is hurting the Red Wings at the wrong time, Mrazek has shown flashes of being a consistent, big game goaltender, as evidenced by his wins against some of the best in the league.
However, if he wants to prove his worth in the starting position now and possibly beyond, he must have a huge showing in arguably the biggest game for the Red Wings this season against the Bruins on Thursday in his fourth consecutive start.
“Well I thought Mrazek did a real good job and he’ll get the start against Boston and his job is to do it again. That’s the great thing about the goaltending position. If you do it every night you get to play every night.”
Mrazek has shown the ability to bounce back after tough starts. Including allowing only one goal on 34 shots after he was pulled in the Islanders game, he has bounced back similarly in a few other games. After getting pulled against the Lightning in late January when he gave up five goals on 15 shots, he followed that up with a 4-1 win against the Islanders two days later stopping 22 shots out of 23. After getting pulled against the Penguins in February for allowing four goals on 17 shots, he came back nearly a month later against those same Penguins in a must-win game for Detroit confidence-wise after a 7-2 debacle against the Flyers the previous day, stopping 42 out of 43 shots in a 5-1 win.
Bouncing back is a nice trait to have when you’re as young as Mrazek, and it will help tremendously down the road in what looks to be a promising NHL career. But after a great performance against the Sens in a losing effort, the Wings will need him to be on his game and provide an encore in a must-win atmosphere again against Boston, who is just two points behind the Wings for third in the Atlantic with six games to go for the home team. In other words, a playoff-type atmosphere.
Babcock said Datsyuk out. Sheahan must pass concussion test to play. Jurco (upper body) is out.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) April 2, 2015
From this update after the morning skate, the importance of Mrazek having a good start just got even more critical.
Quotes courtesy of DetroitRedWings.com and MLive