Petr Mrázek, goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes seems magical. He is playing some incredible hockey this postseason. His outstanding efforts – resembling the sleight of hand of a skilled magician – have kept the Hurricanes in games and allowed them to win Games 3 and 4 at home in their series with the Washington Capitals. The series is tied 2-2.
What began in the offseason as a plan to back up the supposedly reinvigorated Scott Darling, has turned into a starting role for Mrázek in the offseason. There was a justifiable concern when the Hurricanes brought him onboard as to which Mrázek would show up.
Would it be the magical Mrázek or the inconsistent Mrázek who was sent from the Detroit Red Wings to the Philadelphia Flyers who only felt he was worth holding onto for one season? Nope. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, they have the Mrázek who was recently given the nickname “The Rock” by Hurricanes’ television broadcast play-by-play man John Forslund. In the playoffs, Mrázek has been just that, a rock, unmovable and unshakable.
The Book on Mrázek
On Winging it in Motown, JJ from Kansas wrote in Feb. 2018 when Mrázek was traded to the Flyers: The Red Wings are “…pulling the chute on a 26-year old netminder with a lot of potential to mature into a guy who could consistently find himself in the Vezina conversation for years…he could also continue to frustrate his fans with inconsistent play and questions about his attitude/work ethic, but I suppose that’s no longer Detroit’s concern.” That is the most succinct description of Mrázek’s play throughout his career before coming to the Hurricanes. In a word, inconsistent.
That was the book on Mrázek at the beginning of the season. That was what folks were waiting to see. Would the magical Mrázek show up or would it be the inconsistent one that might win two and lose two, win one and lose two, and on and on? Fortunately for the Hurricanes, Mrázek has been superb, a rock, magical in-between-the pipes.
Bob Heyrman wrote at Octopus Thrower last week an excellent perspective on just exactly who the Hurricanes had brought in: “he was the definition of ‘hot & cold’ you never knew from game to game which Mrazek you were going to get.”
Playoff Mrázek has Been Outstanding
The Hurricanes went into Washington D.C. with very few folks thinking that they had a legitimate chance of winning their series with the Capitals. Frankly, the opening goal scored by Nicklas Bäckström went by Mrázek in such a way as to open the door to worry if the stage was too big for him. It was a goal that clearly was stoppable.
Fortunately for the Hurricanes, that was the only “playoff jitter” he has shown. Against no less than the defending Stanley Cup champion, Mrázek has played as if he should be in consideration for the Vezina Trophy. Over the past two games in Raleigh, Mrázek has allowed one goal. His goals-against average is 2.00 and his save percentage is .919. Those numbers are not too shabby, but holding the offensive machine that is the Capitals to one goal over the past two games is remarkable.
Mrázek: Bring on the Pressure
I wrote recently about asking Mrázek about the pressure of certain games and situations. He said it’s fun having something to play for. It certainly looks like he’s having fun.
Game 5 is in Washington Saturday night. The Capitals are not a happy bunch. The loss of TJ Oshie is a big deal for the defending champions, and at least one writer covering them thinks that they need to “Go after Foegele, take out Aho.” Ed Frankovic tweeted that idiotic advice on Friday. He followed up Saturday with a post on WNST.net that was a bit more reasoned and gave this answer as to how should the Capitals respond to losing two games in Raleigh?
Frankovic wrote, “To me, it is very simple. They have to get physical and down in the mud with the Canes to win this series. Fancy play does not cut it in the postseason. The reason Washington was dominated in possession and on the scoreboard so badly is not rocket science, Carolina wanted it more and was willing to pay physically for results.” Not many folks are likely to disagree with that viewpoint, however, Frankovic’s assertion that Warren Foegele or Sebastian Aho need to be gone after or taken out is flat out wrong.
As for Mrázek, he is likely to see much more pressure from the Capitals Saturday night than he did when the Hurricanes were at home. If he can continue to play as he has over the past 120 minutes, the Capitals might just find themselves gripping hard when they come back to Raleigh’s PNC Arena and try to beat the “bunch of jerks” in that extremely loud venue. Mrázek will love it for sure.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.