CHICAGO – Blackhawks rookie center Connor Bedard cracked a smile when asked about Petr Mrazek.
“Yeah, he’s sick,” Bedard said. “I mean, 40-save shutout or something? I mean he’s been that all year. Every game he’s been a rock back there for us. Him or Soder–have so much confidence in them both but yeah he’s been unreal.”
Bedard can be forgiven for adding three more saves to Mrazek’s actual total of 37, but there have been many performances this season where it’s seemed like Mrazek has been making 400 or more saves a night.
It turns out that the 1-0 Blackhawks victory was Mrazek’s 25th career shutout. But in true form of what makes this particular team tick, Mrazek shrugged it off.
“To be honest, not really,” he responded when asked if it meant anything to him. “It’s all about winning the games and that’s all that matters. It’s just a number.”
Blackhawks Get Mrazek’s Back in 1-0 Win
There’s no doubt that Chicago’s ability to stay afloat this season without it completely capitulating hinges on the performances of Mrazek and Soderblom as Bedard pointed out. Mrazek has the lionshare of victories and it’s not as if he’s been getting gobs of goal support.
The shots, too, have piled up. Ten of the 15 games he’s appeared in resulted in 30 shots or more against. In those ten games, the Blackhawks are 5-5, in large part to Mrazek’s efforts.
But digging deeper, the five losses saw the Blackhawks give up 30 goals compared to the nine goals they scored. The only two times the Blackhawks were shutout this season both came with Mrazek in the net. Despite 77 saves out of a possible 84 shots, Chicago couldn’t muster a single goal.
After outings where Mrazek kept the Hawks in it, they were able to return the favor by holding onto the lead. It was Mrazek’s strong play that was the backbone of the Blackhawks successes Thursday night.
“I think Petr being so big back there and really solid, I think that helps us play,” head coach Luke Richardson said. “I think in the third period we sat back a little bit. I think it lets us play confident and play our game with him being solid out there.”
Making It Two in a Row?
But here’s where it’s gets interesting. For the last 88 minutes and 24 seconds of his time on the ice, Mrazek has been flawless. That dates back to the second period of the Minnesota game last Sunday, where he surrendered the fourth Wild goal at the halfway point of the second period.
With that in mind, does Richardson go with the hot hand on Saturday? For a team trying to string its first winning streak together for the season, it’s certainly a compelling thought.
But as far as Mrazek’s concerned, just like his indifference toward the 25th career shutout, he’s more concerned about the team and the right habits getting that second consecutive win.
No matter who’s in net, Mrazek said the solution is quite easy.
“Just to play simple,” Mrazek said. “Play our game and try to score first like we did tonight and then manage the game.”
Sounds simple enough.