Coming into the 2015-2016 season, the biggest question for the Detroit Red Wings was, ‘who will be the number one goalie’?
Jimmy Howard was coming off of another injury-shortened season, though he was clearly the number one goaltender for the team. Playing in 53 games, Howard posted a 23-13-11 record with a .910 save percentage, and a 2.44 GAA. Prior to his groin injury, Howard was once again playing at an All-Star level. In the 32 games prior to his injury, Jimmy posted a 16-7-7 record with a .920 save percentage and 2.03 GAA. After coming back from his injury, he struggled to regain the hold on the number one job. In his 21 games after his injury, he posted a 7-6-4 record with only a .896 save percentage, and a 2.66 GAA. That, plus the strong play of Petr Mrazek in his absence, would lead to Howard missing out on the starting job in the playoffs. It would also lead many to believe there was a goalie controversy brewing in Detroit.
On the flip side, Mrazek was coming off of his first nearly-full NHL season, where he played in 29 games (started in 26), many of those in place of the injured Howard. Mrazek was given his chance to be the backup in Detroit due to the injury to Jonas Gustavsson. In those 29 games, Mrazek posted a 16-9-2 record, .918 save percentage, and a 2.38 GAA. Mrazek’s play earned the trust of then head coach Mike Babcock, and he was pegged as the starting goaltender for the Red Wings’ first round match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that first round series, Mrazek posted two shutouts with a save percentage of .925, and a GAA of 2.11. Unfortunately the Red Wings came out on the short end of that series, but in no way was it due to the play of the goaltender.
Fast forward to 2015, and the Red Wings had a problem that many teams would love to have. They have two goalies that are capable of holding down a number one job in the NHL, but they are unsure which one is the best fit for the current duty. New coach Jeff Blashill refused to name a definitive number one starter, and said that both Mrazek and Howard would split time between the pipes.
Now past the quarter mark of the season, and it seems that Blashill is leaning towards a definitive number one starter.
Mrazek has been tabbed as the starter for tomorrow night’s match-up against the division rival Boston Bruins.
Mrazek is starting for #redwings tomorrow.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) November 24, 2015
That will make 13 games started for Mrazek this season to Howard’s 10. While not a significant advantage, the start marks the fourth start in six games for Mrazek.
Both goaltenders have been extremely solid for the Red Wings this season, and the team would not be where they are in the standings without the stellar play of both Howard and Mrazek. The fact of the matter, though, is Mrazek’s numbers have been far more solid for Detroit this season.
In his 12 games played, Mrazek has posted a 6-4-1 record with a .935 save percentage, and a 2.15 GAA. In Howard’s 10 games? A 5-4-1 record with a .917 save percentage, and a 2.34 GAA. That is not to say that Howard has played poorly this season. Numbers just tell the story, and Mrazek has clearly been the better of the two.
None of this means that Mrazek is now pegged as the number one goalie, but the recent amount of playing time he has earned has to make you wonder if he is emerging as Blashill’s number one choice. Only time will tell if the Red Wings continue to go with the committee approach to the goaltender job, or if Blashill will eventually come out and say who his number one choice is.