Jared Coreau is forcing Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill to make some very difficult decisions very soon. When Jimmy Howard, in the midst of an elite season, went down with an MCL Sprain, Petr Mrazek was expected to take reigns. However, after two solid performances, the Grand Rapids Griffins call-up should get a strong look to start this upcoming weekend’s Centennial Classic.
Jared Coreau Makes Strong Case For Centennial Classic Start
In his first NHL start on December 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Coreau posted a .889 SV%, stopping 32 of 36 shots, in a 5-3 loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champions. It was a valiant effort against a team whose 3.43 G/GP ranks second in the league and in a game where the Wings just couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead in the third period. If there was ever a case of being thrown into the deep end and forced to swim, this was it.
This was the only game Coreau played in his first stint up, as Mrazek took over from there until Howard’s return. It didn’t take long for Howard to fall again, however, and suddenly Coreau found himself with the big club once again.
Coreau’s started two of the team’s three games since his latest call-up and both of them have been victories. Against the Florida Panthers, Coreau registered his first NHL win in a shootout after playing a solid third period where the team staged a comeback. Against the Ottawa Senators, Coreau turned aside 26 shots in an overtime victory in his hometown in front of family and friends, including 92-year old Grandma Pat.
Over his three games for the Red Wings, Coreau’s posted a .908 SV% and 2.93 GAA. These numbers are by no means elite. In fact, they aren’t even league average. But they are not bad for a rookie goalie in his first three NHL games with a team flirting with the basement of the NHL. They might even be good enough to win the start at the Centennial Classic, since the other half of Detroit’s current goalie tandem has been on a bit of a skid.
Mrazek’s Play Hurting
Mrazek was dealt another blow on Tuesday night when he let in four goals on 22 shots in a 4-3 loss to the division rival Buffalo Sabres. The performance really hurt Mrazek’s 2016-17 stats, bringing his SV% down to .896 and his GAA up to 3.11. These numbers are far below his career average .916 SV% and 2.44 GAA.
Mrazek is no write-off, though. Red Wings fans will recall last season’s heroics where he posted a .931 SV% and 1.84 GAA through January and February. These were truly elite numbers that even had Mrazek in the Vezina discussion.
This makes Sunday’s decision of who to start very difficult for Coach Blashill. On the one hand, he’s got his future starting goalie having a rough season. He knows this is not Mrazek’s standard of play. He’s seen what Mrazek can truly do. So to give starts to the rookie backup will only chip away at Mrazek’s already low confidence level. On the other hand, you’ve got to go with the hot glove and, even though Coreau’s glove may not be that hot, it’s definitely hotter than Mrazek’s at the moment.
Outdoor Games Are Something Special
When asked about playing outdoors for an NHL regular season game, most players will answer, “It’s a special thing” (or something along those lines). The outdoor rink is a winter tradition for young hockey players and a rite of passage in the hockey world. It’s where dreams are made and skills are developed. There’s no better way to learn shot accuracy than having to hit the net for fear of losing the puck to the snow.
Now, these dreams will become a reality for one of Detroit’s goalies on New Year’s Day on the biggest stage in hockey. Mrazek had to sit out the last outdoor game in the 2013-14 season in favour of Howard. Will he have to sit this one out too?
The 25-year old Perth, Ontario native may just supplant him.