When Petr Mrazek took over for Jimmy Howard in the 2015 playoffs and nearly upset the Tampa Bay Lightning by himself, the 24-year-old set the bar extremely high for the 2015-16 season.
In the pre-season many prognosticators said that Mrazek would firmly take over as the Red Wings No. 1 starter and he did so right away. Despite Howard posting a shutout in the first game of the season, Mrazek started more games in every single month, until April.
Prior to the All-Star break, Mrazek was one of the best goalies in the NHL and a case could have been made for him to be in the Vezina Trophy conversation, however, no one really stood a chance against Braden Holtby. Mrazek was a top-5 netminder when the All-Star break rolled around but he fell off of a cliff after the break.
It still ended up being a strong season for Mrazek, although I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that he would like a do-over for March and April. He finished the year tied for eighth in shutouts (4), 10th in SV% (.921) and 13th in GAA (2.33) and wins (27). Those are great numbers from a 24-year-old who was playing in his first year as a starter. He obviously wore down, having played a career-high 54 games—he started 52 and 50 in Ottawa (OHL) back in 2011 and 2012.
After stumbling down the stretch Jeff Blashill elected to go with Howard in the playoffs, but he lost the first two games and the Red Wings turned back to Mrazek. He started with a shutout before losing the next two games, but he posted a 1.36 GAA and .945 SV% in three starts and now holds an impressive 1.88 GAA and .931 SV% in 10 career playoff starts to kick-off his young career.
Quality Starts vs. Really Bad Starts
Quality Starts and Really Bad Starts were statistics created by Robert Vollman, author of the Hockey Abstract series of books and they are exactly what they sound like. A quality start (QS) is defined as a game where the goalie posts a SV% above the league median (.915 in 2015-16) or gives up less than three goals while posting a SV% of .885 or greater. Really bad starts (RBS) on the other hand can be defined by a game where the goalie has a SV% below .850.
This is where Mrazek excelled in 2015-16. Almost every time Mrazek got the nod, he gave his team a chance to win, rarely blowing up and costing the Red Wings. In over 65 percent of his starts he allowed less than three goals or had a SV% of .915 or better. Mrazek did not have what is classified as a “really bad start” until February 14th, his 36th start of the season. He followed that up with another blow-up against the Penguins, but only finished with five really bad starts on the year.
Data From: war-on-ice.com
I’ve already mentioned that his SV% in all situations was good for 10th in the NHL, but his even-strength SV% and adjusted even-strength SV% were good for seventh and eighth respectively. Like a lot of his other numbers, he was near the top of AdSV% for the majority of the season, only to fall off in March.
Unlike some goalies like John Gibson and Jaroslav Halak, Mrazek wasn’t great when the Red Wings were shorthanded, falling back towards the middle of the pack in shorthanded save percentage.
Back to even-strength. Mrazek faced close to the league average in even-strength shots per 60 minutes and as I just mentioned, he was near the top in EVSV%. If the Red Wings can continue to limit the amount of shots that Mrazek faces, he’ll continue to improve in these categories. If they can re-tool their blueline and start limiting shots the way the Los Angeles Kings do, he could become one of the NHL’s top netminders in the near future.
Wins per Million
Wins are obviously not a great metric to rate a goalie’s performance because it is more of a team-based stat, but it is ultimately what you’re trying to do as a goalie… get your team the W. While writing my Howard Year In Review, I decided to take a look at Wins per $Million dollars (cap-hit) because I wanted to see just how overpaid Howard was. While I did this, I found out just how great of a value Mrazek was.
Data From: NHLNumbers.com
He is a pending free-agent this summer and coming off of a 27-win season, he is due for a massive pay raise. He found himself second in the NHL in Wins/$Million, only behind Louis Domingue, so the Red Wings’ netminders found themselves on both ends of the spectrum (Howard was 62nd out of 67).
The Red Wings will likely try to trade Howard this offseason, because they can’t pay two goalies as much as they will be if they keep him and it has become evident that Mrazek is the goalie of the future in Detroit. Expect to see Mrazek start 60-65% of the Red Wings games again next season, with the potential for more if he has enough gas in the tank.
He was clearly fatigued this year and one would think he will work hard this offseason so he can become a workhorse starter that is capable of playing 60-65 games. As for a prediction, I think Mrazek is somewhere in between his pre-All-Star break numbers and what he did after the break. He is not a top-5 NHL netminder, but he has the ability to be a top-10 guy, who posts 30 wins, 2.30 GAA and .920 SV%. If the Red Wings want to make it 26 consecutive playoff appearances, he will need to be very close to that goalie.
It was the tale of two halves for Mrazek, but there was a lot more good than bad in 2015-16 and he showed flashes that have Red Wings fans believing that he can become a top-10 netminder for the next six to eight years. There will be even higher expectations in 2016-17 and Mrazek will have a lot of pressure on him in his second full NHL season as the No. 1 guy.
Mrazek was a top-5 netminder for over half of the season and that is more than anyone could have hoped for in his first year as a No. 1 option. Even after he faltered late in the season, he came up big in the playoffs and has some crazy-impressive playoff numbers so far. This is just the beginning and the Red Wings’ front office will need to be very careful with his contract extension this summer. One season doesn’t cement him among the NHL’s best, but there’s a lot to like going forward.