Monday, April 28, 2014

Why Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek and goalie should be Red Wings biggest issue

It was a case of the flu. OK. But before Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard missed the last two games of the Red Wings' five-game series loss to the Bruins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, he didn't play well. He was terrific in Game 1.
There were a lot of factors why the Red Wings were ousted by Boston, not the least being the Bruins are simply a better, more experienced and deeper team.
Jimmy Howard
But the great equalizer in these playoff sets often is goalie. Tuukka Raak was way better than Howard and Jonas Gustavsson, Howard's backup. If you look at the Eastern Conference, do the Red Wings have the equalizer in goal? Montreal's Carey Price, the Rangers' Henrik Lundquist., Rask... the list of goalies in the Eastern Conference, let alone league-wide, better than Howard right now is pretty long.
This is the bottom line on  Howard, even before the flu he wasn't nearly good enough in this series. And Gustavsson is not the long-term answer.

Petr Mrazek
Howard has had five playoff runs with the Red Wings. He was very good in three of them. He was subpar in two. His save percentage this season was just 91 during the regular season, ranking in the 30s in NHL rankings. It was 90 percent in the last two games of the playoffs, including a couple soft goals in the equation.
There will be some angst about whether Gustavsson will re-sign as a free agent, but the bigger issue is how willing the Red Wings are to let Petr Mrazek push Howard next season. He had a 55-save performance the other night in a playoff game for Grand Rapids, and did lead Griffins to the Calder Cup last season.
It wasn't like Mrazek was overmatched with the Red Wings. In brief stints the last couple seasons, covering 11 games, his save percentage is .926 and he's pitched a couple shutouts.
So he's only 22? So what?
The Red Wings open up the goalie spot in training camp next season. They forget the ridiculous notion of getting Mrazek "overly ripe." They should have learned their lesson on the Gustav Nyquist fiasco early this season.
And let the goalie play.

My column: Detroit Tigers are living on borrowed time with their shaky bullpen:

My column: The Detroit Lions will improve dramatically if this is their 2014 NFL Draft


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