Howard the Man in Detroit Once Again
By Patrick Hoffman
For a few seasons in Detroit, the Red Wings thought that Petr Mrazek would be the man for them between the pipes for their hockey club.
Mrazek showed as much in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. In 2014-15, the 25-year-old Czech goaltender went 16-9-02 with a 2.38 goals against average (GAA), a .918 save percentage and three shutouts while also performing very admirably in the postseason (3-4 with a 2.11 GAA, a .925 save percentage and two shutouts).
The following season was another successful one for Mrazek. He went 27-16-0-6 with a 2.33 GAA, a .921 save percentage and four shutouts. He once again got his club into the playoffs and played well in a losing effort as he went 1-2 with a 1.36 GAA. a .945 save percentage and one shutout.
In 2016-17, things began to slip away for Petr. He was well below league average with a 3.01 GAA and a .901 save percentage, both career worsts for Mrazek.
More importantly, however, is the fact that if not for his goaltending partner Jimmy Howard getting injured last year, Mrazek would have more than likely lost the starting job. Before getting injured, Howard was 10-11-0-1 with a sparkling 2.10 GAA, a .927 save percentage and one shutout.
Mrazek is unfortunately showing his team this year that he might once again not be the true starter for this hockey club. In three games this season, he has a 3.24 GAA and a .901 save percentage, numbers that simply will not get it done in the ultra competitive Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
On the other side, Howard has picked-up where he left off last season and has regained the starter's position. As of this writing (Wednesday, November 1, 2017), Howard is 5-4 with a 2.57 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
In each of the games Howard has played in this season, he has given his team a chance to win, which is really all you can ask of your goaltender. He has been extremely steady between the pipes and with his play, is showing Mrazek that there are things he can work on if he wants to be a starter again in this league.
For starters, Howard looks poised between the pipes. His moves are very economical, he is rarely caught out of position, and he does not allow many soft goals.
Secondly, Howard is showing that experience helps. The 33-year-old masked man has been an NHL starting goaltender for over seven years and has learned something each year that has helped his game.
Lastly, Mrazek can learn from Howard by seeing how patient he is between the pipes. While Mrazek is very athletic and can make many highlight-reel saves, he needs to learn to let the play come to him so that he can be in position to not only stop the first shot, but also any follow up opportunities.
While there is no doubting that Mrazek can once again be a starting netminder in this league, the net clearly belongs to Howard right now and deservedly so.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.