Thursday, February 7, 2013

Discussing Petr Mrazek (Redux)

This is a rehash of a post from last year where I spoke of Detroit Red Wings prospect Petr Mrazek. In light of him being named Detroit's starting goaltender in tonight's contest with the St. Louis Blues, here is a look back at some things I said about Mrazek, with a little bit added in about his 2012-13 season in Grand Rapids. Czech it out! (Sorry, it was a lame joke used in the first article and I felt the need to ring that bell a second time.)

Petr Mrázek

Petr Mrázek is a 20 year old goaltender who previously belonged to the OHL's Ottawa 67s. During his tenure in Ottawa, Mrázek put up strong numbers, including two consecutive 30 win seasons that also included save percentages above .917. That's pretty good for a league filled with crazy talented kids putting up point per game or better seasons. As the highlight reel suggests, Mrázek THRIVES on competition, emotion, and excitement. If you want an excellent glimpse into Mrázek's personality, The Goalie Guild is all over this one. The Guild gives a pretty outstanding endorsement and please do not hesitate to click on their link and check out the interviews. One thing I found interesting about Justin Goldman's article is the lack of references to a previously dominant Czech goalie who was both explosive and unorthodox in his style.What was his name? Dominik Hašek?

Far be it for me to suggest Mrázek is the next 389 win, six time Vezina and two time Hart winning double Stanley Cup and Olympic gold champion. Reality is that there will never be another Hašek . The comparison is not your average over-the-top-Wings-fandom cheerleading so much as an outlandish attempt at comparing the styles of the goalies. One could argue that the art of tending goal is so varied that it's like comparing Picasso's Guernica to Peter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death. There is a grain of truth in the comparisons, but ultimately it if futile to say one shares much in common with the other. In the case of the paintings, both are pieces of art. Both deal with the tragedy of death in some manner. Both are European painters. I'm sure there's a more postmodern comparison to be dug up but I digress. Mrázek and Hašek can be compared much in the same manner. They're both goalies. They both come from Europe and the same country. They both play a unique style that bucks the trend of their generation.

Most of all, it's that intangible, explosive personality that makes them both entertaining that draws my interest. During Hašek 's years in Detroit, he was still playing at an elite level (for the most part), but his best years were behind him. Despite Father Time beginning his slow but steady shin-whacking of the Dominator,   Hašek  was ever the peppy netminder who bamboozled the NHL's best even on off nights.

For those without sound, that's a 40 goal machine, the Slovakian Marián Gáborík getting dumped on his face. Not much else to say there.

Mrázek's big welcome to the spotlight came at the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, where he won the honour of Best Goaltender of the tournament despite the Czechs finishing 5th and getting dumped in the quarter finals by Russia. When all was said and done, the kid nearly finished off the best team in the tournament in the first round of knockouts by himself. The whole world started asking "who is this guy and why is he dominating" and "how do you say his name" all over the internet. Red Wings fans, atop their ivory towers, snickered at the thought of getting another Hašek from the eleventy-billionth round of a thin draft. Okay, that's the over-the-top-Wing cheerleader in me. I'll dial it back. He's not exactly a reserved kind of guy like Chris Osgood. He might even be the anti-Osgood. Cue the Ryan Lambert material here, if you please. No, Mrázek is not subtle:

Now that I would pay to see every night for 15 years. Eccentric goalies are often very up-and-down in terms of quality (see Bryzgalov, Ilya) and can often put forth some stinky performances (Dominator anyone?) but Mrázek sports something we haven't seen in Detroit in a few seasons. Mrázek plays with a passion for the game on his sleeve and lets that passion erupt in the form of crazy celebrations on the ice. I'm not only cool with that, I cannot wait to see this kid play (and win) in Detroit.

On the eve of Mrazek's NHL debut, it seems appropriate to bring everyone up to speed on his efforts down in Grand Rapids. So far with the Griffins, Mrazek has been AHL All-Star caliber. He boasts a 16-7-3-1 record with a 2.26 GAA and a sparkling .916 save percentage.  He's outperformed fellow Griffin Tom McCollum and given the injuries to Gustavsson and Joey MacDonald, he is the logical choice for backup to Jimmy Howard...for now. As we approach his NHL debut there's still a lot of questions as to how the kid will perform under the big spotlight...

Cannot wait to see him in action tonight.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

High Praise for Zetterberg, Czech out Mrazek!

The weekend didn't go the way most Red Wings fans hoped. After picking up a satisfying (if not controversial) 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Friday, Detroit lost a rather humdrum affair to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday by a score of 4-2. That brings the Red Wings record to 4-3-1, good for a four way tie for 6th in the Western Conference. The log jam in the standings continues with two teams tied with eight points and two more teams tied with seven points. All of this means Detroit sits two points up on 13th place Columbus and two points back of 5th place Anaheim. If you want a good read on how the weekend went game-by-game, check out Winging it in Motown and JJ's analysis of the 5-3 win and the 4-2 not-win. They've got a nifty explanation of how CSSI analysis works. Here's a hint: CSSI stands for Common Sense Scoring Index.

Moving on as fast as possible from the weekend's cruddy results, one of the biggest surprises for Red Wings fans over the weekend was the high praise solicited from hockey's greatest scorer, Wayne Gretzky. In a piece I stumbled upon over at r/DetroitRedWings, The Great One offers up his opinion on Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg and his place in the game today. In essence, Gretzky declared that not only was Zetterberg his favorite player to watch, he believes Hank is the best Swede ever to play in the National Hockey League. Not hard to fathom when Zetterberg is out there scoring like he did Friday against the Blues:

The third goal was kind of a goof by the Blues, kudos to Oshie for fighting hard to prevent the hat trick. Getting back to Gretzky's point about Zetterberg being the best Swede...I'm inclined to agree, but is he suggesting Lidstrom was inferior or that he transcends any comparisons? I love Hank as much as any Red Wing fan out there, but I'm not sure Lidstrom doesn't deserve the honour. What about Daniel Alfredsson over in Ottawa? Gretzky makes a terrific point, though. Zetterberg often doesn't get enough credit for his two-way play and his offensive output. Understandable when your line mate is often all-world superstar Pavel Datsyuk, but give Hank a full season as captain and I think people will be surprised at how successful this team can be, even after losing all the defensemen that made the team formidable in the late 2000s.


The injuries are mounting pretty fast in Detroit. Currently out with some form of injury are the following:

Jan Mursak (collar bone? shoulder?)
Carlo Colaiacovo (left shoulder)
Ian White (left leg laceration)
Mikael Samuelsson (groin)
Darren Helm (back)
Jonas Gustavsson (groin)

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, there's another injury we have to talk about.

Brendan Smith is down.

According to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, everyone's favorite defenseman prodigy is now nursing an injured shoulder and will be out 10 to 14 days minimum. If things didn't look bad with White and Colaiacovo out, the Wings are down another regular defenseman. At this point, the Red Wings defense kind of looks like this:

A combination of Lashoff-Huskins-Kindl

The blank spot might/should be filled by Ian White come Tuesday against the Calgary Flames, and Kent Huskins isn't injured from the "head shot" perpetrated by David Backes. For what it's worth, Lashoff has earned his place in the starting lineup from the few games he has played thus far, and Jakub Kindl definitely has not. I come down hard on Kindl pretty hard for not proving his value, but this is a point where until the rest of the regulars return, Kindl HAS TO PLAY WELL. That means no more lapses. Kindl's time may be up in Detroit before the end of the season, and it appears with Lashoff playing well, he may be expendable come the trade deadline. Then again, there are so many injuries to the blueline, only Lashoff, Nick Kronwall and the venerable Kyle Quincey have escaped some kind of injury. Thank god for small mercies, eh?


On the upside, it looks like those aching to see Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek in the Red Wings lineup may get their chance. According to MLive (Khan!), both were recalled from Grand Rapids. It's about damn time someone noticed ECHL calibre netminder Thomas McCollum was sitting on the Red Wings bench, potentially entering games. Mrazek on the bench gives me a sense of relief while Gustavsson ices his crotch. I had done my fair share of whining over McCollum in a couple of the Winging it in Motown game threads, so clearly management read what I said and looked at some game tape or something. I think this is the best thing for young Petr Mrazek, especially given how strong his play in the AHL for Grand Rapids has been.

As for Tatar, I'm not high on him but his play in Grand Rapids thus far has been exceptional. He has 39 points in 44 games with the Griffins. I'm not sure where Tatar will fit into the lineup, but the idea of Detroit actually bringing up their prospects to play is pleasing. I understand this season isn't anywhere close to being a wash, but the time has come to accept that signing 35 year old forwards to be invisible/injured is no longer going to be acceptable. It's time to shake up the lineup and give Tatar, Nyquist and company the chance to show that they are as good as what the Red Wings community hopes they are. Here's Tatar netting a hat trick Friday night:

Any thoughts on Zetterberg, Tatar, Mrazek, or the Wings in general? Leave a comment!