Down 2-0 in their series against Tampa Bay, the Detroit Red Wings needed a spark. Coach Jeff Blashill decided to shake up his lineup by swapping goaltenders. In came Petr Mrazek, out went Jimmy Howard.
It was a risky move because Mrazek played poorly during the final stretch of the season, while Howard’s strong play got the Wings into the playoffs. But the head coach got it right. Mrazek stopped 16 shots, as the Red Wings won the game 2-0. The victory cuts the Lightning’s series lead to 2-1.
The Red Wings came out of the gate strong in Game 3, but they failed to take the lead in the first period despite having three power plays (including a 5-on-3).
Detroit finally got on the board at the 12:42 mark of the second period, when Andreas Athanasiou scored his first playoff goal.
Detroit shut the door the rest of the way.
Mrazek wasn’t overly busy, but he was solid when called upon.
Many coaches have changed goaltenders mid-series. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes were in a similar situation. Down 2-0 in their first round series against Montreal, Peter Laviolette decided to go with Cam Ward instead of Martin Gerber. The move paid dividends, as Ward led the ‘Canes to their first Stanley Cup. That’s not to say the Wings will win it all, but stranger things have happened.
Game 4 goes Tuesday night in Detroit.