The goalie duel is officially on in the Motor City.
“There’s been discussions over the summer,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said of his duel with fellow goalie Petr Mrazek, per the Free Press. “Blash [Wings head coach Jeff Blashill] and I sat down and went to lunch together and had a great conversation.
“It’s going to be an open battle, the way it should be.”
Mrazek overtaking Howard’s No. 1 gig was a big story of last season, especially in the playoffs. The 23-year-old Czech rookie, who’d never played in the postseason before, got the nod and was stellar in a seven-game opening-round loss to the Lightning, posting a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage.
The demotion was frustrating for Howard but, during his end-of-year media availability, he tried to keep a level head. The 31-year-old said he wouldn’t demand a trade, noting that he looked forward to competing for the No. 1 gig in ’15-16.
And now, the competition begins.
Mrazek is well aware of what’s at stake; in May, he (astutely) noted that “only one goalie can play.” Under regular circumstances, it would be Mrazek’s gig to lose given he ended the year as the No. 1 — but these aren’t normal circumstances in Detroit.
Blashill comes in with a new approach, fresh slate and different philosophies from Mike Babcock, who actually never spoke with Howard about not starting. Howard said it was “weird actually sitting down and actually having a discussion with Blash,” about the situation in goal, but seems to appreciate the clear lines of communication.
Of course, Howard’s optimistic tone could change if Mrazek takes the starting job. Again.