For Mrazek, Wings victories only stat that matters
Detroit — If you look at the NHL goaltending statistics Tuesday, you fell upon an oddity that doesn’t materialize often:
A Red Wings goaltender leading the league in both goals-against average and save percentage.
Petr Mrazek is ranked No. 1 in both categories, with a 1.97 GAA and .933 save percentage, though if you ask Mrazek, he’s paid it little mind.
“It’s nice but if a team is playing well and we earn points, that’s the most important thing,” Mrazek said.
When the regular season began, coach Jeff Blashill alternated Jimmy Howard and Mrazek with the intention of seeing if one or the other could pull away in the competition and claim the No. 1 goaltender’s job.
Howard’s slump in late December led to an increased workload for Mrazek, who grabbed hold of the opportunity and has excelled.
Mrazek was 7-1-1 in January, including going 5-0-0 during a crucial six-game road trip to open the month.
“Everybody stumbles for a little bit, but he gets right back up,” Blashill said. “It’s a combination of Petr doing a good job and our defense has done a good job and out team defense has done a good job.
“This isn’t any one guy, this is a team and when the team does well individuals get recognized and that’s great.”
Blashill, himself a college goalie back in the day, believes elite goaltending is vital for any successful team.
“One of the requirements to be a real good hockey team is you have to have elite goaltending,” Blashill said. “Certainly when someone is ranked with those types of rankings you’re getting that type of goaltending.”
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: “Since he’s come in, he’s had that X-factor, that even if he let up a bad goal, he forgets about it real fast. Last year he had those games where he didn’t think he played that well — and the next game he’d come in and play real well.”
Mrazek posted his fourth shutout of the season (he’s tied for third in that category) in Monday’s 3-0 victory over Florida, Mrazek’s 20th victory (outside of the top 10 in the victories column).
The importance of earning two points in the standings, Mrazek said, trumped any personal accomplishments or milestones.
“It’s just statistics,” Mrazek said of his numbers.
The fact Blashill has turned to Mrazek as the regular goalie has been a key, Mrazek said, in this recent hot stretch.
When Blashill was alternating the two goalies, there were stretches that one or the other would often go almost a full week between games during light portions in the schedule.
Now, Mrazek is playing every other night, as the games begin to pile up in the schedule, and it’s easier for any goaltender to get into a rhythm in that type of situation.
“When you’re playing more you have more confidence,” Mrazek said. “I feel like that’s the difference. When you’re playing a lot of games, game after game, you get confidence and you feel better in net.”
Seeing himself atop the league statistics is nice, but Mrazek isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We have 29 games left and I wouldn’t want to talk about it,” Mrazek said of his current streak. “Every game is different and you can give up five or six goals the next game. You have to go game by game.
“Every game is different. You have to have confidence every game, but be smart and don’t do anything (in terms of) bad decisions.”
Barring injuries or a slump of his own, Mrazek is likely to get the bulk of the games remaining on the Red Wings’ schedule.
Which is fine with Mrazek, although he’s never played more than 47 regular-season games (combined NHL and minors) at the professional level (2012-13 with the Red Wings, Grand Rapids and Toledo).
Mrazek has played in 36 games this season.
“When you get used to it, you feel better and better every game,” Mrazek said.
When the Red Wings host Ottawa on Wednesday, they’ll get to see newly-acquired defenseman Dion Phaneuf in a Senators uniform.
Ottawa and Toronto pulled off a massive nine-player trade Tuesday, with Phaneuf’s move to Ottawa as the centerpiece.
“Him coming in, he’s a veteran presence, he’s been in the league for a long time, he just adds depth on the blue line,” Zetterberg said. “They already have Erik Karlsson, one of the best defensemen in the league, and now you add Phaneuf.”
Defenseman Mike Green (groin) didn’t skate Tuesday and won’t play against the Senators, meaning Jakub Kindl remains in the lineup.
… Defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) has begun skating lightly on his own but probably won’t be ready to play Sunday when he comes off the injured list. Kronwall could be ready later in the week if everything goes well.
Senators at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
Outlook: Ottawa pulled off a massive trade Tuesday acquiring veteran D Dion Phaneuf from Toronto. …Ottawa (25-23-6, 56 points) is four points behind in the wild-card chase.