Red Wings’ Decision In Goal: Monster or Mrazek?

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

There’s a shiny, new toy in Motown, and his name is Petr Mrazek. It is difficult for Detroit Red Wings fans to look at the 22-year-old, Czech and not be reminded of legendary netminder, Dominik Hasek. After all, it is no secret that Hasek was Petr’s idol growing up. Pair that with Mrazek’s aggressive style and willingness to leave the blue paint, and you have the prospect of Hasek 2.0 between the pipes in Detroit. While Petr is unlikely a threat Jimmy Howard’s place as starting goalie at this time, he might be one to veteran, back-up Jonas Gustavsson. Will the Red Wings make room for Mrazek to stay up with the team on a full-time basis? No, and I do not think they should.

Petr The Great

Make no mistake about it – I am a supporter of Mrazek. He has far exceeded my expectations during his current stint with the Red Wings. Since Howard went down with a slight groin tear on January 10th, Mrazek has eight wins and just one loss, while posting a 2.51 GAA and .910 save percentage. It is also evident that his ability to handle to puck behind the net is greater than that of any other Red Wings’ goaltender. His aggressiveness outside the blue paint is a boon to Detroit’s defensemen, combating the effectiveness of the opponent’s forecheck. Mrazek’s ability to move the puck also eases the transition from defense to offense for the forwards, looking to get up ice as quickly as possible.

Numbers and skillset aside, Petr possesses a number of intangibles that will aid in his growth as a netminder at the NHL level. Specifically, Mike Babcock praises Mrazek’s mental toughness and resiliency. He told Helene St. James of The Detroit Free Press: 

“He’s been yanked now twice, and he’s responded the next night,” […]”I really like that. He’s still got to develop as a goaltender, he’s got to work on his skill set, but I think his mind is really good. Some guys bring energy every day and some guys are mentally, mentally strong and other guys aren’t.”

Room To Improve For Mrazek

So with the mental aspect of Petr’s game on track, what does he need to work on? For one, I would say Mrazek needs to sharpen up his rebound control. Considering his aggressive style, he is going to have to work on his ability to swallow up pucks with more consistency.

Petr has also shown that he is susceptible to letting in a “softy” or two.

The goals against Mrazek show that he still has some work to do tightening up and trapping pucks with his body. At 22-years of age, he has plenty of time to refine his skillset – even if it includes finishing the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Despite his desire to stay with the big club, it could do Petr some good to finish up the 2014-15 season in the AHL, playing on a much more frequent basis than he would in the NHL.

There’s Still a Monster in Motown

Ahh, yes. I almost forgot. Jonas Gustavsson is still a member of the Detroit Red Wings. It seems as if it’s been much longer than three months since the Detroit net minder dislocated his shoulder in early November. While Gustavsson’s 2014-15 stats (2.30 GAA and .908 save percentage) are not going to win many people over, let’s not forget his contributions to the Red Wings last season. As Howard fought through a knee injury in December of 2013, Gustavsson held down the fort. He even landed the wins a few critical wins down the stretch, during Detroit’s push for a playoff spot.

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

You also have to factor in the way Ken Holland runs his team. He has long preached patience when it comes to bringing prospects into the line-up, and it is difficult to argue with the results. Additionally, it is unlikely that the team would find a trade partner for Jonas Gustavsson, and even more unlikely that they would be willing to waive him in order to make room for Mrazek – that’s not Holland’s M.O.

The Red Wings are going with the hot hand for now, as Mrazek will start against the Penguins on Wednesday. However, with Howard healthy enough to return, it is more than likely that Mrazek will be sent down to Grand Rapids sooner, rather than later. All signs point to him starting next season with the Detroit Red Wings, backing up Howard. If this season is any indication, we may have another goaltending controversy in Detroit before long.