Wings, Mrazek seek consistency from goaltender

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — That was quite a finish to last season for Petr Mrazek, the young goaltender who suddenly found himself starting all seven games of the first-round playoff loss to Tampa Bay.

Mrazek got the nod over Jimmy Howard, in a decision by former coach Mike Babcock, and was arguably one of the better Red Wings during the series.

But that was last season.

Fast forward to Friday’s start of training camp and Mrazek knows he’ll have to play just as well, or better, to keep the starting job over Howard.

Most importantly, he must show the consistency that Mrazek sometimes had difficulty maintaining.

“That’s going to be a very important thing,” said Mrazek, who was 16-9-2 in the regular season with a .918 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average. “Have solid games and play well all the time and be ready and prepared for every game.”

Mrazek was pulled four times in the second half of last season, but always came back strong the next game, winning three of those games (3-0-1) with a 95 percent save percentage.

Still, coaches would rather see a goalie perform consistently every game, and coach Jeff Blashill said it’s something Mrazek will have to achieve.

“Consistency is the key to success in pro sports and certainly it’s true of goaltenders,” Blashill said. “Both Jimmy and Petr have built a resume. Petr’s is smaller, it’s shorter at the NHL level, so he needs to continue to build upon that.

“The challenge is doing it every time every day through the course of long seasons.”

It would appear that ending the season the way Mrazek did, starting in the playoffs, would give him an edge to be the starter heading into this season.

But Mrazek, who was in net for Blashill when the Grand Rapids Griffins won the 2013 Calder Cup championship, doesn’t see it that way.

“That was great, that I had a chance to start last year, but that’s over,” Mrazek said. “It happened, now it’s a new time to show coaches and the staff that I’m ready for a full (time) job here and play as many games as I can.”

Both goalies will get plenty of game action in the eight-game exhibition season, and early in the regular season the Red Wings have six sets of back-to-back games before Thanksgiving.

“We play eight preseason games so they’ll both get a good chunk of games,” Blashill said. “How many, I don’t know yet. But they’ll both get a chance to be able to show where they’re at and stake their claim for the job.

“If you also look at the regular-season start, we’ve got a number of back-to-backs, so it really lends itself well to both guys getting a chance to show they went to be the starter. We’ll let the competition play itself out. But again, the thing about competition is that doesn’t end at any point. It remains throughout the season and that goes for everybody.”