Wings’ Mrazek goes cold but stays cool
Detroit – The Petr Mrazek of the past three weeks hasn’t looked like the Petr Mrazek of January.
In January, with Jimmy Howard struggling and the Red Wings embarking on a long stretch on the road, Mrazek took control of the starting job with an amazing run. Mrazek was 7-1-1 with two shutouts and a stunning 1.32 goals-against average and .952 save percentage.
But in his last six starts, beginning with the Valentine Day’s 6-5 victory over Boston, Mrazek has been much less stingy.
In three of the six starts, Mrazek has allowed five goals in a game – including Wednesday’s 5-2 loss against Chicago –results that normally don’t produce victories (the Red Wings won one of the three).
Mrazek is 3-2-1 with a 3.53 GAA and .876 save percentage in the six-game snapshot.
Coach Jeff Blashill isn’t concerned about this latest slump.
“The one thing I’d say first is the stretch he went through in January is not sustainable,” Blashill said. “You don’t do that for a season, there’s no way. To me, it's just the natural ebb and flow of the season. You're going to have some stretches like he had during January on the road, and you're going to have some stretches like recently.”
Both Blashill and Mrazek said the first Chicago goal, a shot from Brent Seabrook from the top of the circle off a rush, was one Mrazek normally stops. But Mrazek didn’t have much of a chance on the other goals.
“Outside of the first goal, I didn't think there was much he could do,” Blashill said. “The other thing I'd say is give Chicago some credit. They have some elite offensive players. Obviously, (Artem) Panarin and (Patrick) Kane are real special, talented players."
Mrazek, 24, was his usual unflappable self after Wednesday’s loss, already moving on to the future.
“Every game is different,” Mrazek said. “Those games, sometimes you try to battle hard and pucks go in. I just have to battle hard and don’t worry about the five goals.
“You have to look forward.”
Could the strain of the long NHL season be getting to Mrazek? Wednesday’s game was his 44th this regular season.
At the professional level, Mrazek’s busiest regular season was 2012-13, when he played in 47 games between suiting up with the Red Wings, Grand Rapids and Toledo.
While Mrazek has struggled, Howard has shown definitive signs of turning his season around. Howard stopped 39-of-41 shots Monday in a 3-2 overtime victory in Dallas, ending a nine-game winless streak.
In his last two starts, Howard has stopped 68 of the 71 shots he’s faced.
The one minor surprise of the seven Red Wings named to World Cup teams was the selection of Justin Abdelkader to Team USA.
Abdelkader, 29, has gradually evolved into one of the league’s better power forwards. This season he has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) and has played in a variety of roles in the lineup.
Abdelkader has played for Team USA at the world championships and playing in September’s World Cup is another significant step in his career.
“It’s a huge honor, I’m really excited,” Abdelkader said. “There’s nothing like going out and playing for your country, putting the red, white and blue on. I’m just really excited for the opportunity.”
Caught by surprise
Jonathan Ericsson didn’t expect Chicago forward Andrew Desjardins to want to fight after Ericsson slammed Desjardins to the boards in the second period.
“I know he kind of went in a little awkward into the boards,” said Ericsson, leaving Desjardins momentarily shaking cobwebs. “I couldn’t really tell if it was a bad hit or not. I thought he was going to come and challenge me (to a fight).
“I asked him but he didn’t say anything, so I didn’t think it was going to be anything. But he dropped them on me there and I wasn’t really ready for it.”