Wings' Mrazek is sticking with what works

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The skeptics are starting to believe.

With every save, each victory, the confidence builds and goaltender Petr Mrazek gets more comfortable and confident.

And the Red Wings get that much closer to advancing to the second round.

The Red Wings take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 of the best-of-seven series Monday night (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) at Joe Louis Arena and with a win, can clinch the series.

Much of the credit would go to Mrazek.

Not that his teammates or coaches are surprised.

"Petr's been great for us so far," defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. "I don't know if too many people outside of the locker room or this area realy expected him to be playing this well. He's been standing on his head for us and he's been making big saves when we need him, too.

"He's been making timely saves. He's been making big saves at the right time and not letting any soft goals in. That's really helped us."

How much could Mrazek be getting inside the heads of the Lightning shooters at this point?

Consider this:

Through 87 games (82 regular season and five playoff games) the Lightning — who lead the NHL in goals scored — have been shutout three times.

Mrazek has all three shutouts, two in the playoffs and one in the regular season.

"It's nice to have the shutout but it doesn't matter," said Mrazek, who has allowed only nine goals in the five games. "It's the playoffs and it doesn't matter if you give up three or four goals and win, that's the most important stuff."

Mrazek was a key piece two years ago, leading Grand Rapids, the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate, to a Calder Cup-winning season.

Since then, whenever he has been called up to the Red Wings, Mrazek never looked out of place.

Certainly even now in his first NHL playoffs, Mrazek looks like a seasoned veteran.

The fact Mrazek has been through an American League championship, a world junior tournament and Memorial Cup (junior hockey championship) has prepared him for this stage.

"He's having fun, he thinks he's the guy, and this is the spot he wants to be in," Babcock said. "You want to be in this situation because it's fun.

"His first year in the American League he wins the Calder Cup — you don't win the Calder Cup by accident, you must be good. Then every time we've called him up, he's played good. To me, he's just one of these guys that must be good. He must be.

"He just keeps doing it, so he must be. I don't know enough about the technical skill and that stuff. I just know it (the puck) doesn't go in when he's in there."

Mrazek has maintained an even-keel approach throughout this series and isn't doing anything differently heading into Game 6.

After Saturday's victory Mrazek was already looking ahead to the next game, a mantra he consistently repeated during the regular season.

Bad goals allowed were shaken off, good saves were forgotten.

On to the next game. Even this time, with it being a possibility to win an NHL playoff series.

"I wouldn't say it's any different," Mrazek said. "You try to be focused and excited for every game. You want to finish it as soon as possible.

"We know the game starts from 0-0 (in Game 6) and we're going to go and play hard."

His teammates are fully behind Mrazek, knowing what they've seen from him during the regular season and now in these first five games against Tampa Bay.

"He stops pucks," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "You have two teams that are real structured and there's not lot of chances either way (offensively) for both teams.

"Obviously Mrazek has been real good for us. He plays with a lot of confidence and he gives us confidence."