Detroit — Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings’ captain, has seen a subtle difference in goaltender Petr Mrazek.
It’s definitely a different Mrazek from the one earlier this season — and most of last season — who didn’t resemble the confident young goaltender the organization used to know.
But, for over the last week, over three games in which Mrazek has gotten to play, and play well, Mrazek has displayed the confidence he used to have.
“He’s a real good goalie when he plays with confidence,” said Zetterberg, after Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss. “He’s not the biggest guy, so he needs to read the play and when he does that right, he’s good.
“He’s been doing that lately.”
Before Philadelphia’s Andrew MacDonald scored at 1 minute 10 seconds of the second period Tuesday, Mrazek had strung together a shutout streak of 145 minutes 5 seconds.
Tuesday was also the first time this season Blashill started the same goalie on both ends of back-to-back games on consecutive nights, with Jimmy Howard sitting both nights.
Judging by Blashill’s comments after Tuesday’s game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of Mrazek in the near future.
“We’re in playoff hockey, we have to win games,” Blashill said. “We’ll make those decisions (who’ll start) on a game to game basis. Not to say we don’t take a big-picture look, but right now we’re game by game.
“We have to find a way to win.
“Jimmy, he’s played real well. I hope both of them play great. I said at the beginning of the year we need elite goaltending and elite specialty teams. Right now, the last few games, when Petr has won, we have gotten elite goaltending.”
Mrazek admitted he was “excited” about the opportunity to get the back-to-back starts.
“I played a couple of back-to-backs in the past so it wasn’t anything new for me,” Mrazek said. “But I felt pretty good out there.
“Every game you get, every minute you’re on the ice, you get more and more confidence. I was really happy I could get another start.”
Blashill agrees confidence is a contributing factor in Mrazek’s recent turnaround, but also the goaltender’s discipline in net.
“He’s in control, he’s managing the depth of his crease well,” Blashill said. “He needs to be out (of the net), but when he gets himself in trouble is when he gets over-aggressive and he’s out of the crease and making one save and doesn’t have a chance for the second save.
“Pucks are sticking to him. He’s able to make not only the first, but second saves, which in this league are required.”
Mrazek’s ability to handle the puck, said Zetterberg, is also a benefit.
“He plays the puck so well,” Zetterberg said. “It helps us get out of our own end and we don’t get stuck there for longer times. That means we spend more time in their end.
“He’s been playing good and hopefully he continues to play well.”
Mrazek’s turnaround puts intrigue into what the Red Wings will do with him, and Howard, leading to the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
Mrazek can be a restricted free agent this summer, but the Red Wings aren’t likely to qualify him at his $4 million salary, which would make him an unrestricted free agent.
The Red Wings could deal either Mrazek or Howard (one year left at $5.3 million) before Feb. 26, but there aren’t many contending teams in desperate need of goaltending.
Still, if Mrazek continues to play well these next few weeks, he could attract a team looking for insurance, for a mid-round draft pick.