Going into this season, everyone in hockey knew that this was going to be a tough season for the Chicago Blackhawks.
With a team that has Connor Bedard, a lot of young players, an offense that has trouble putting the puck in the net, and a very suspect defense, wins are very hard to come by for this hockey club this season. The team is last in the Central Division, the Western Conference, and the league.
As one can see, things are going as expected for this team. What is not going as expected is the excellent play of their goaltender, Petr Mrazek.
Mrazek, 31, has posted solid numbers despite playing behind a weak defense. He is currently 12-20-0-1 with a 2.89 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage, and one shutout. Yes, his record is obviously not good, but his goals-against average and save percentage numbers are terrific considering the team he plays behind. His play and numbers have been so good this season that the team announced on January 24th that they signed him to a new 2-year contract extension.
When announcing the extension, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson acknowledged to reporters that not only is Mrazek doing a great job of stopping the puck this season, but he is also doing all the little things to help himself and his teammates.
“He’s been great,” Richardson said. “I think last year he had a bit of injury trouble and he corrected that. He had a great finish last year for us and this year he’s been great. Came in in great shape and we’re trying to manage his load, so he doesn’t get overworked, but the schedule’s worked out fine for him and he’s played great.
“I’ve mentioned before, it’s not just him stopping the puck. His communication with the defensemen is huge, especially with a lot of young guys on our defensive core. Other than that, whether he’s sick or feeling a little banged up, he shows up for work every day, never takes a day off. He’s shown true professionalism and that’s good for the younger guys to see.”
“Petr is a strong goaltender who continues to display the athleticism and calming style of play that has made him so successful in this league,” Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said. “He’s had an immense impact within our group, and we’re excited to have Petr back.”
There are a few reasons why Mrazek is playing well this season. For starters, he is healthy.
Richardson said that Mrazek had injury trouble last season, which impacted his game. He has since corrected that and is back to a style of goaltending that works for him.
Secondly, Mrazek has shown that he will always battle to stop a puck. He never gives up on a play, he can stop second and third opportunities, and he does not care how he stops the puck as long as he keeps it out of the net.
Lastly, it looks like Mrazek is more relaxed and is having fun playing the game this season. He may play on a bad team, but that has not stopped him from going out there and doing his job to the best of his abilities.
The Blackhawks still have a long way to go when it comes to rounding into a good hockey team, but with Mrazek between the pipes for at least the next two seasons, they are in a good position to continue progressing in the right direction.