Babcock gives starting job to Mrazek, feels he gives them best chance in the playoffs

DETROIT >> Petr Mrazek may have played his way into being the Wings’ starting goalie in the playoffs.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said he made his decision on who would lead the team in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning after Saturday night.

That night Mrazek blanked Carolina in the regular-season finale, making 33 saves for his third shutout of the season.

“I just watch the guys play and I just thought that gives us the best way to start the series,” Babcock said. “Don’t confuse the player and the person. What I do is try and take all the emotion out of it and I try to take the information I have by watching games and by talking to our staff and then I make the decision that’s best for the team.”

When Mrazek is on he’s on.

In his last six wins he has a .982 save percentage (stopping 172 of 175 shots), a 0.50 goal against average and three shutouts.

“I’m excited,” Mrazek said. “It’s their decision and I can be just happy for that and do my best.

“It’s a huge chance,” Mrazek continued. “It’s the same chance I had when I was 20 years old in Grand Rapids, my first year being starter for playoffs so that’s a new challenge for me.”

Mrazek led the Griffins to the Calder Cup that season.

“When I said before the game in Carolina, that was a big game for me because I had three games I didn’t have a win, I had just one point against Ottawa so that game was huge and finished the season with the win,” Mrazek said.

Mrazek also blanked the Lightning, who are the highest-scoring team in the league, in the last meeting of the regular season against the teams, making 23 saves.

“It’s not about any of us right now, it’s about the Detroit Red Wings,” Babcock said. “It’s real simple. I went through that again this morning, it doesn’t matter if you play one shift or 50 shifts or you’re scratched or not, it’s how you handle it and how you make the team better. The individual time of the year is all over. It’s all about the team, let’s get ready to play.”

Howard, who gave up three soft goals in an overtime loss to Montreal last Thursday, had lost the starting job to Mrazek after back-to-back poor outings.

Howard allowed five goals on 22 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes on March 24 and then was yanked after allowing three goals on 10 shots in one period the very next game against the San Jose Sharks.

“When you evaluate goalies you evaluate them on who they are and their skill sets are different,” Babcock said. “Then you just decide on which one can help the team and help you win.”

Mrazek had his ups and downs when he took over as the number one.

After shutting the Lighting, he was replaced by Howard his next start against the New York Islanders, allowing four goals on 11 shots.

Prior to Saturday, he had allowed just six goals over this last three starts, but has gone just 0-2-1 in them.

“It’s a team sport and if the team plays real good it gives your goaltender a better chance,” Babcock continued. “Pete’s played real good games for us this year and has done a fair bit of winning for us. I made that decision.”

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