DETROIT — A new day, a new game.
Petr Mrazek has been pulled from the net in five games this season, including Game 2 Saturday in Tampa Bay, but how he responds from those less-than-stellar performances is a testament to the young goaltender’s ability to bounce back.
After giving up four goals on 18 shots on Saturday, Mrazek was replaced by Jimmy Howard at the start of the third period. While it has happened four times in the regular season, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock wasted no time naming him the starting goalie for Tuesday's Game 3 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference first-round series against the Lightning.
On the four previous occasions that Mrazek was relieved, he has responded by posting a 3-0-1 record with a 1.71 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in the four starts that followed the games in which he was replaced.
“That’s what he does and that’s what he has been doing for us all year,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I will say however, I didn’t think (any) of those goals were faults on him. We made some big mistakes and he was left hung out to dry. We have to do a better job in front of him.”
Lightning players left unaccounted for in front of the crease, bad bounces and a faulty skate blade that forced Danny DeKeyser to trip over the blue line and allowed Tyler Johnson to go unabated toward the net. While it may have been a string of bad fortune that led to the four goals surrendered by Mrazek, the team still has confidence in the young goaltender heading into Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena.
“Well I think we have full trust in both our goalies,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “I don’t think you can say that he had a bad performance, I think the goals were clear-cut chances, breakaways, guys standing in front getting three whacks at it.
“We gotta help our goalies out better. We have full trust in those guys and I’m sure Petr will play great tomorrow.”
A short-term memory is what Nyquist said makes his goaltender so unique.
“Well I think just like Howie, he’s a real good goalie,” Nyquist said. “Mentally, he’s really good as a goalie. He’s not a guy who cares about the last puck that went in, he just moves forward and focuses on the next shot and competes hard, likes these situations. When the game is on the line he wants to be the guy to come up with the big saves. He’s a great goalie.”
Mrazek admitted he didn’t watch any of the film from Game 2 and said that this time of year it’s important to look forward, not back.
“It’s just over,” Mrazek said. “When the game’s over you don’t think about it anymore, you’re just looking forward to a new day and a new game.”
That short-term mentality has paid dividends for Mrazek on several occasions already this season.
In January, after being pulled from a game for the second time in 10 days, Mrazek allowed five goals on 15 shots to none other than the Lightning and was relieved of his role after two periods. How he responded just two days later was a 22-save 4-1 win over the New York Islanders in an impressive performance against a fellow playoff team.
Again in February, Mrazek allowed four goals on 17 shots to the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road and was sent down to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins just days after his shaky performance. In March though, he would be recalled back to the Wings and received a shot at redemption as he faced the Penguins for the second time at Consol Energy Center. In his return, Mrazek would stop 42-of-43 shots in a 5-1 win over the Penguins, rebounding from his past start and solidifying himself as a mainstay in the Red Wings locker room for the remainder of the regular season.
He has been known to make statements in the past, avenging previous performances. While his teammates take the blame for the loss in Game 2, no goaltender is content with surrendering four goals in a game regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
In a pivotal Game 3 at home, expect Mrazek to come out with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove against the Lightning. As the starting goalie for a team in the playoffs, there may not be a more nerve-racking role in the game than Mrazek’s between the pipes on Tuesday.
“If you feel pressure, you play better,” Mrazek said. “That’s the way I feel like that and I don’t think goalies are nervous it’s just if you feel pressure and you know how to handle it, it’s good to play under pressure.”