Detroit confirms it’s Howard over Mrazek for Game 1

AP
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Same opponent, different starting goalie.

That’s the storyline for Detroit tonight as it opens its Stanley Cup playoff rematch in Tampa Bay — it’ll be Jimmy Howard, not Petr Mrazek, as the starter in goal.

Last year, of course, Mrazek was named the starter just prior to Detroit’s series with the Bolts, a decision that proved a jumping off point for the Czech ‘tender. Even though the Wings fell in seven games, Mrazek impressed onlookers and finished with a sparkling .925 save percentage, propelling him to the starting gig for most of this season.

Most of this season.

With Detroit in danger of losing its consecutive streak of playoff appearances, head coach Jeff Blashill turned to Howard late in the year, starting him in the final seven games.

Howard, to his credit, did enough to get the Red Wings into the dance, but it was hardly a lights-out performance.

In the final two games of the year, losses to Boston and the Rangers, the 32-year-old surrendered seven goals on just 45 shots, an .844 save percentage, and was hooked against the Bruins.

If there is optimism for Howard, though, it could come from his history against the Lightning. He went 2-1-0 with a 2.14 GAA and .925 save percentage versus the Bolts this season — granted, the two victories came in October and November.

Much has changed since then. Just ask Howard!