The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the best goaltender in the NHL. Some of the all time greats to ever play in the NHL have been the recipients of this award; names like Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and Tony Esposito.
To be an elite NHL goaltender, it takes a strong mind, having the ability to quickly forget weak goals given up, and needing to quickly refocus. Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals seems to be a lock to receive the award this season, but, there are two other players that get the nod as being voted as finalists for the award. I believe our very own, Petr Mrazek has a shot at being one of the other two players voted in as a finalist.
Back in 2012 at the World Junior Championships, Mrazek had his “coming out party”, so to speak, when he put up a 52 save performance in a 5-2 victory for the Czech Republic against the United States of America with 21 of those saves coming in the 3rd period. The Czech Republic, anchored by Mrazek, made it to the quarterfinals where they were ultimately eliminated from medal contention by Team Russia. The Czechs would end up placing 5th overall in the tournament. Although they were eliminated early and didn’t medal, Mrazek was selected as the best goaltender in the tournament. In 2013 for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Mrazek was selected to the AHL All Star Game and represented the Griffins on the West All Stars. He was the starting goaltender, and recorded the 7-6 victory over the East All Stars. Later, he found himself in the Playoffs for the Griffins where he started all 24 Playoff games the Griffins played in, leading them to a Calder Cup Championship where they defeated the Tampa Bay Lighting‘s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, 4 games to 2. Move along to the 2014-2015 NHL Playoffs where Mrazek saw himself yet again on a big stage. To make it even more nerve-racking, it was his debut in the NHL Playoffs as a rookie.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, he stopped 44 out of a possible 46 shots en route to a Wings 2-1 victory on the road in Tampa Bay. Although the Wings were eliminated in 7 games by the Tampa Bay Lighting, Mrazek still showed promise that he can be a true 1 NHL goaltender. Fast forward to the current season at hand, he is now the clear cut number one for the Wings. He has taken the reins away from Jimmy Howard and hasn’t looked back. He’s consistently making big save after big save, keeping the Wings’ chances as good as any team in the league to hold on to a late game, one-goal lead, or propel them to go and strike even if they are trailing.
You feel confident when Petr is the starting goaltender on any given night. He currently leads the league in save percentage at .933, and goals against with 1.94; those two numbers are respectfully above the league average in both categories. One could argue that those numbers should be lower than the league average than what they actually are, given the Red Wings’ proneness for getting too careless defensively at times. But that just goes to show that what he is doing every time he steps between the pipes for Detroit is special, and people around the league should start taking notice of 34 in the Winged Wheel.
I saved this portion for last because I think it really puts into perspective how special of a talent Petr really is. He turns 24 years old today, and when you really think about it, with all the success he has had, and all the experience he has had at such a young age, he is maturing before our eyes and isn’t even near the prime stages of his career yet. He’s still scratching at the surface and trying to make a name for himself and I think we can all agree that he is doing just that. I’m not saying he is going to win the Vezina Trophy, let’s get that out of the way very quickly. I am just simply stating that the numbers are there for debate. Being the youngest goaltender in the league to be up for Vezina consideration adds to how superior his talent really is. Petr has proven time and time again that he can put a team on his back and give them the best possible chance to win a hockey game. That is exactly what you want from a guy that is defending your net on a nightly basis.
I have a hashtag for Dylan Larkin that simply reads larkinforcalder that I post on my Facebook account every time he finds a way to factor into some kind of scoring for the Wings. I think after producing this piece, I am encouraging myself and others to add another hashtag to the list and start posting mrazekforvezina every time Petr has a fantastic night in net and considering how he has been performing, I see that being posted in bunches for the remainder of the season and hopefully have it transition into our 25th consecutive playoff appearance.
Happy birthday Petr Mrazek, keep up the phenomenal play in net!