NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Last April, Jimmy Howard had a rough span, giving up numerous soft goals, with the Detroit Red Wings hardly hanging on to a playoff spot.
In comes Petr Mrazek to save the day.
Mrazek had already made starts earlier in the season for Howard while he was injured right before the All-Star break along with backup Jonas Gustavson. With Mrazek doing so well, ex-head coach Mike Babcock decided Marzek would stay the starter for the rest of season and through the playoffs.
The 23 year-old Mrazek was basically in his rookie season.
Mrazek had only played in 11 NHL-level games prior to the 2014-2015 season, so it was his first true test as a young goalie.
The 6’2″ 183 pound beast went 16-9 in the regular season last year with a .918 save percentage and gave up an average of 2.38 goals a game. He also was pretty solid in the seven-game heartbreaking series against the eventual Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was a big request to have a rookie start in a crucial playoff series, and even though the Red Wings did not prevail, Mrazek showed us a lot that we did not expect.
Mrazek had a .925 save percentage and gave up an average of 2.11 goals per game in the seven games he started in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That is what the Wings need if they want to make a deep playoff run.
Mrazek made 46 saves in the Red Wings game one victory. He also shut out the Lightning twice during the series, in game three and in Tampa in game five. That’s huge for a rookie to have two shutouts in a series, especially against the caliber of a team as the Lightning.
On the other hand, Howard was having a great season last year up until his injury.
After that he had a sub-par season. Howard ended with a .910 save percentage last season, for a second year in a row. That’s right. He had that same statistic in the 2013-14 season. In fact that’s the third time in Howard’s six seasons as starter that he has had a save percentage below .915. Not to mention Howard gave up nearly two and a half goals a game last year.
I know many of you still believe that Howard should be the starter but, it may just be time to move on from Howard or at least have him take a back seat.
Howard has not been durable as of late which is alarming to me. He has struggled with injuries in his career, most recently before last season’s All-Star break obviously. That is also when Mrazek stepped in and won key games for the Wings.
Honestly, without Mrazek I am not sure the Wings would have made a 24th consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s also quite possible that if Howard would have kept starting that we may have missed the playoffs.
It is going to be hard for Howard to win his starting job back with the new head coach Jeff Blashill at the helm. While with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Blashill coached Mrazek and they won the 2013 Calder Cup together. So Blashill has had a lot of influence on Mrazek’s development.
The bottom line in all of this is that I think Howard won’t be as consistent. Howard has struggled in that aspect in the last few years along with his production slipping and him being injury prone. Mrazek is young, which is what the Red Wings are now with the likes of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan among others. Mrazek can come up big under pressure which is something the Red Wings need in the net if they want to win a 12th Stanley Cup.
Mrazek deserves to keep the job that he claimed last season by simply outworking Howard, which I fully expect him to keep it.
What are your thoughts, Nation?