Friday, February 8, 2013

Red Wings finally get some scoring depth

The Detroit Red Wings downed the St. Louis Blues Thursday night 5-1 and three of those five goals came from players who don't skate on the team's top two lines.

That's something the Red Wings hadn't been able to accomplish in their first nine games of this shortened season.

It was the Red Wings' determination to get to loose pucks and to keep the Blues defense on their heels that made the difference, and every line seemed to be on top of that game plan, ready to execute.

Thursday's game was by far the best performance this year from this Detroit squad. Previously, it hadn't been common to see the Wings force turnovers -- other than the masterful Pavel Datsyuk -- or even an icing from the opposition. It happened plentiful Thursday night.

The story of the game can be summed up in at least one specific play: Jordin Tootoo tipped a puck to Drew Miller who threw it toward the net where it was maneuvered in by Cory Emmerton. First, Tootoo got to a loose puck thanks to his steady hustle. Miller and Emmerton both were on their horses and up the ice quickly. All three players screamed into the zone, leaving the Blues defenders chasing, hoping a goal wouldn't be the outcome to this play which developed at center ice.

That's good hockey -- something yet to be seen from Detroit's grinders. 

On top of all this, rookie Petr Mrazek got a W in his NHL debut. The 20-year-old looked poised and confident all game, making almost no mistakes.

Lastly, the Detroit defense was quicker than in previous games. It helps when the forwards are all speeding up and down the ice, taking and keeping the pressure out of the Red Wings' zone. The best offense is always the best defense. Always.

The Blues didn't have much chances to get things going in the Detroit end.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Player profile: Rookie goalie Petr Mrazek

On Thursday night, Detroit Red Wings rookie goalie Petr Mrazek will make his NHL debut in St. Louis.

The 20-year-old native of Czech Republic will be trying to help the Red Wings snap a two-game losing streak. He'll have to do it in hostile territory against a Blues team with tons of speed and a bone to pick -- a 5-3 loss to the Wings on Friday in Detroit.

Closer look at Mrazek

Mrazek is a winner. He probably wouldn't be in this position if he didn't have a solid record between the pipes.

Upon closer look, the 20-year-old has more experience in the crease than one might expect. He already has appeared in 25 games for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, earning 16 wins and just 7 losses. With the Griffins, Mrazek has posted a 2.26 goals against average and .916 save percentage. In fact, he has never posted lower than a .905 save percentage since 2009-10 when he debuted in the OHL with the Ottawa 67s.

During a three-season span with Ottawa, Mrazek earned 74 wins. He also appeared in 29 OHL playoff games. 

There is reason to be excited for a 6-foot-1, 187 pound kid. This may be the only time Wings fans see him in the crease this season, but depending on his performance, he could be the next backup and potential starter for a future Wings team.

Mrazek gets his chance

Jimmy Howard will not be able to play all 48 games, as coach Mike Babcock stated clearly this week. The Wings cannot seem to find any consistency in the backup position. Jonas Gustavsson was supposed to represent just that -- a fallback for Howard. Yet, his injury-riddled career continues.

Joey MacDonald may have run out of time for such a spot on Detroit, or even on another team -- I.e: Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce obviously are being overlooked, for whatever reason.

This is Mrazek's moment to shine. 

Is that too much pressure for this kid? Maybe. But think about this: The Ottawa 67s are a proud OHL team with rich history. It's no walk in the park playing CHL hockey in a high-profile town such as Ottawa. Mrazek did it. He moved far from home and seemed to handle the pressure well. 

He has everything going for him. All he needs is a chance. He's got it now.