Goalie - DET
GAA: 2.00 | Sv%: .942
– Among the litany of questions that faced the Red Wings on Day 1 of training camp was one surrounding the goaltenders.
Who would be this season’s starter, the veteran or his young understudy?
Based on Petr Mrazek’s performance late in the 2014-15 season, as well as the playoffs, some thought he was the clear choice to assume the No. 1 role this season.
However, Jimmy Howard – who lost his starting gig because of a midseason groin injury – wasn’t ready to accept anything other than the starting job.
Goalie - DET
GAA: 1.99 | Sv%: .939
Both goalies entered last month’s training camp confident and ready to battle, making it difficult for the Wings’ coaching staff to pick between them. Each man had a solid preseason, doing what was necessary to claim the top spot. But in the end, the two were too close to settle on just one No. 1.
“I think it’s a good thing. Both Howie and Mrazek have been good in the preseason,” captain Henrik Zetterberg proclaimed. “Everyone knows what happened here last year. Howie got injured and Mrazek came in and played real well. This year we have two goalies that could be No. 1. Nowadays you need two goalies. You can’t have one goalie and ride him 70 games.”
The Wings’ captain is right. The days when NHL clubs counted on one goalie to make the lion’s share of the starts is over. So, the fact that the Wings have two solid netminders is a luxury that most teams can’t afford.
“It’s good and you need (two goalies) because the league is definitely going in that direction where every single night is a battle,” Howard said. “So the days of having one guy playing 70 games is probably out the door.”
In the past five full seasons, just 17 goalies have logged more than 70 starts in a single regular season with only Washington’s Braden Holtby and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick starting 70-plus games in one season over the last two years.
Back to the preseason, depth, defense and goaltending lifted the Wings to a 6-0-2 record as they surrendered just 17 goals.
Always so full of confidence – even in defeat – Mrazek posted a 2-0-1 record with a 1.99 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in the preseason. Howard, who dropped 12 pounds over the summer, was equally impressive, going 3-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .942 save percentage.
While coach Jeff Blashill hasn’t identified a clear-cut No. 1, yet, it’s obvious to the players that the early competition between Howard and Mrazek will be a winning formula.
What the Wings have in goal heading into this season – which opens Friday when Detroit hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena – is a 1A and 1B.
“At least from what I’ve seen, I’d agree with that,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “That’s how good they have been. It’s been good and I think it’s healthy for them both to feel that little bit of extra pressure and I think that just keeps both of them on their toes. That’s probably why they are as good as they are right now.”
Howard has been named the starter for Friday’s opener, and Mrazek will play the next night when the Red Wings travel to Carolina.
Because of their early-season schedule, Blashill said that both goalies will get plenty of work as the Wings will play six sets of back-to-back games in the first six weeks of the season.
“I think we have two really good ones, they played great in the preseason,” Blashill said. “I think that’s the No. 1 reason we had the success we had, because our goalies were great and they’re both going to get opportunities to play for sure.”