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Petr Mrazek Earns First Playoff Start

Mike Babcock had his beer and thought about his goaltending situation that has been the never-ending story down the stretch for his hockey club. He revealed his decision today.

Surprising to some extent at the surface, in terms of playoff experience. Petr Mrazek has no playoff experience at the NHL level, but for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, he turned in a great performance in 2013 en route to a Calder Cup championship posting a .916 save percentage and 2.31 GAA.

This season, coming up and down and ultimately staying in Detroit for the stretch run, he’s posted a more than respectable 19 wins, .920 save percentage, and 2.23 GAA in 40 appearances. For the last three months, his save percentage equates to .933. That spans 12 games, in which he has netted just five wins, but in the seven losses, Mrazek had two goals or less of support in five of them. The other two he was pulled in, which are customary growing pains of an up and comer.

31-year old Jimmy Howard has started every playoff game he’s been healthy for since the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He missed the last two games of the 2014 series against the Bruins and compiled a .931 save percentage in three games, as the Presidents Trophy winners were too much for the team as a whole. Overall, the upstate New York native
compiled a 23-13-11 record this season with a .910 save percentage and 2.44 GAA. Below expectations, but what really is alarming is the evidence of decline.

Since February 24th, spanning 18 games started, Howard’s save percentage amounted to .883. In those 18 games, Howard had eight wins, receiving three or more goals of support in five of the losses. In the other five losses, he had a .883 save percentage when the team scored just six goals total for him. The team took its own slide during this stretch, but Howard arguably went through the worst one of his career, seeing himself lose the starting job a couple times.

In terms of playoff records, Howard has not gone past the 2nd round(2 times came to game 7), but he’s turned in a respectable career .919 save percentage and three game seven wins. It will be the 23-year old Mrazek, however, who will get his shot in the first game Thursday night coming off of a 35-save shutout against Carolina.

Mrazek is looking forward to his chance to be “the guy” for the Wings this spring.

“I’m excited, it’s my first playoff game in the NHL, I can’t wait. I’ll do my best. It’s a huge chance. It’s the same chance when I was in Grand Rapids in my first year (as a pro). This is a new challenge for me.”

His coach stressed that the decision was best for the team in his view.

“I just watch the guys and I thought that (Mrazek starting) gave us the best way to start the series. It’s about the Detroit Red Wings right now. The individual time of year is all over. It’s all about the team and let’s get ready to play.”

We’ve been on this path before however. Mrazek when called upon to grab the starting job has faltered a couple times. We’ll see if he can grab it when it counts as he did in Grand Rapids two seasons ago.

Quotes courtesy of The Detroit News

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