Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek has emerged as one of the surprise stories of the season, and has led the Red Wings thus far to a 2-1 series advantage over the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning.
But although he might be a rookie when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this isn’t his first go-around with playoff hockey. He’s been a part of several high-pressure situations in the past, and they’ve helped to shape him into the goaltender who is currently leading the Red Wings.
Mrazek led Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, to the Calder Cup championship in 2013; his goals-against average of 2.31 was fourth-best amongst AHL goaltenders. He also starred on the international stage, helping his native Czech Republic to the bronze medal in the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship. Not only was Mrazek awarded the IIHF Directorate Top Goaltender award, he was also named the best goaltender of the championships.
All of the accolades earned in his career would pale in comparison to his ultimate dream – leading the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship. He’s earned the confidence of Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who has elected to start him over veteran Jimmy Howard. Those who were concerned with how Mrazek would handle the jump from the regular season to the playoffs were quickly silenced with his 44-save performance in Game 1 against the Lightning.
It isn’t often that a goaltender who started the year in the minors emerges as starting goaltender in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Petr Mrazek is writing his own story, and he is just getting started.