|Petr Mrazek has won his last two with one goal allowed and a .980 save percentage following Thursday's 3-0 victory an Colorado. (Photo by Getty Images) |
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Whatever happens in Petr Mrazek’s 10th straight start Saturday night at Gila River Arena, the Red Wings know one thing for sure – their goaltending future is bright.
Though Mrazek has had his ups and downs while filling a void created by lengthy injuries to Jimmy Howard (groin) and Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder), the 22-year-old rookie has been solid enough for the Red Wings, who continue to churn out wins to keep pace near the top of the Atlantic Division playoff race.
“He’s been very impressive in obviously a very tough situation for us when both Monster and Howie went down,” Henrik Zetterberg said following the team’s practice Friday. “Pete comes up and basically comes in and plays unbelievable right from the first start. He really kept it going.”
With a record of 30-12-9 for 69 points, the Red Wings are ahead of Montreal (67 points) for second place in the Atlantic Division. Detroit also remains two points behind Tampa Bay (71 points) for the division lead.
Howard has said he hopes to play next Wednesday in Pittsburgh, and Gustavsson is fresh off a two-game rehabilitation stint in the American Hockey League. He returned to the Wings’ roster this week and will backup Mrazek for the second straight game when the Arizona Coyotes host the Red Wings on Saturday.
Moving forward, Mrazek's role in Detroit appears cloudy, however, it doesn’t diminish what he’s meant to the team during this four-week stretch.
“He’s done a great job, you know, he really has,” Howard said. “He’s stepped up in a big way for us and we’re going to need him again here tomorrow.”
What impresses Howard most about Mrazek is his ability to not let bad goal here or there rattle his psyche. Even when he was pulled in two recent starts – vs. Buffalo (Jan. 18) and at Tampa Bay (Jan. 29) – he managed to rebound in subsequent games.
“It’s not his first time ever being pulled; it won’t be his last. He knows that,” Howard said. “He’s a very prideful guy and he’s got a lot of confidence. It doesn’t bother him too much.
“It’s just part of the gig. One day you’re the hero the next day you’re the goat. So you don’t really read into anything, you don’t listen to anything, you just live in your own bubble. I think that’s how I survive.”
Initially, Zetterberg wasn’t sure how Mrazek would fare after being pulled twice. The captain only had a small sample size of past NHL performances to critique Mrazek’s aptitude.
“I talked to the guys he played with in Grand Rapids and they said if he had a bad night he came back and had a real good night the night after,” Zetterberg said. “Everyone can have a bad night but it’s what you do with the next start that matters.”
Coach Mike Babcock added: “I don’t think anybody wants to be pulled. He’s just found ways to win games. That’s what you want. He’s good with the puck. He competes hard. He has the ability to bounce back but he’s been good. We’re fortunate with Howie, Gus and him. We got good depth in goaltending.”
Thursday in Colorado, Mrazek stopped all 28 shots he faced to record his third career shutout – his first this season – to lift the Red Wings to their eighth win in their past nine games. In doing so, his season record to 12-4-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 18 appearances, including a 7-1-0 mark in nine starts since Howard went down on Jan. 10.
“Obviously Pete’s played well,” Babcock said. “I thought Pete was outstanding in particular in the first period (Thursday) night. He’s done a real good job for us. The team wins when he’s playing. That’s what you want from a goaltender.”
GOAL POWER: The Red Wings rank seventh in scoring offense at 2.94 goals per game, which is up sharply from a season ago when they finished at No. 16 in the league, averaging 2.65 goals.
The offensive firepower has been dialed up recently. In their past nine games, the Red Wings have averaged 3.78 goals. They’ve scored seven goals in the last two games, getting production from seven different shooters – Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening.
Center - DET
Goals: 10 | Assists: 12 | Pts: 22
Shots: 98 | +/-: 1
Helm has two goals in the past three games, giving him 10 goals and 22 points this season. After an abysmal few seasons dealing with five separate injuries, Helm is enjoying a bounce-back year.
“It’s tough to be playing when you’re not healthy,” said Helm, who dealt with injuries involving a knee, lower back, groin, concussion and a lacerated forearm. “I’ve been healthy. Been feeling pretty confident every time I go out on the ice and obviously the guys I’m around now have definitely helped. I have fun playing with Tats and Pav and we’ve been having a pretty good run right now and playing good hockey.”