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Hot Goalie In Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins extended their winning streak to three games and climbed above the 0.500 mark for the first time this season on Wednesday, claiming a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals in their 12th annual matinee game at Van Andel Arena.

Rookie netminder Petr Mrazek made 24 saves to backstop the Griffins (5-4-1-1) to their first home win and improve his personal record to 3-0, marking the third-best debut ever for a Grand Rapids goalie. Only Ty Conklin (2011-12) and Mathieu Chouinard (2000-01) enjoyed better starts (5-0) in a Griffins uniform than Mrazek, who currently ranks third in the AHL in both goals against average (1.30) and save percentage (0.954).

Grand Rapids, which last won three straight during a five-game streak from Feb. 22-March 3, will try to maintain its hot hand on Friday when the Rockford IceHogs pay a 7 p.m. visit to Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins jumped ahead 13:54 into the game on one of just three shots they launched during the opening period, as Riley Sheahan tallied his first goal of the season in shorthanded fashion on a wrister from the slot that beat Jeremy Smith.

Mrazek, meanwhile, was a busy man during the first 20 minutes of his home debut, facing 12 shots and allowing only a 5-on-3 power play goal to Jonathon Blum, who blistered a shot over Mrazek’s right shoulder from the top of the left circle at 15:56.

Early in the middle frame, just seconds after Brendan Smith was denied on a breakaway chance, the home team took a 2-1 lead. Chad Billins teed-up a slap shot from the right point that stayed low to the ice, allowing Francis Pare to redirect it home from the doorstep at the 6:15 mark.  

The Admirals (4-6-0-0) once again answered to knot the score before the second intermission. Jack MacLellan brought the puck out of the right corner and threw it out front, where it caromed off the shaft of Juuso Puustinen’s stick and past Mrazek at 12:38.

Joakim Andersson gave the Griffins their third lead during a power play 11:18 into the final period. Billins skated toward the net in the right circle and slipped the puck to the top of the crease, where Andersson was positioned to redirect it inside the left post. The assist marked the third of the afternoon for Billins, tying him for the AHL lead with 11 and giving him a pair of three-point games and four multi-point outings in his first 11 professional contests.

Gustav Nyquist tacked on an empty-netter with 30 seconds left, pushing him into a tie for second in the AHL scoring race with 13 points (6-7—13).

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Comments

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I was bitching about this to start the season.. blew my mind mccollum and pierce got the vibe nod over mrazek whos had success on every level hes played.  Shouldve been there from the start, good to see that gaff corrected.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 11/07/12 at 04:38 PM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

Yeah .. I too was surprised Mrazek was started in Toledo but, I also think management is having a hard time believing this kid is really that good.

If this keeps up (gaa under 2.00) for an extended period even in GR, not only will they be giving him every blood and pee test to find out what he’s ingesting but, Jimmy better start looking over his shoulder and be prepared to accept a backup roll sooner than he wants too.

If this kid really is that good, lets hope they don’t keep him buried in GR just because they can. Overripe is one thing and denying Mrazek the chance to break some NHL records at an early age is another.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 11/07/12 at 05:35 PM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

The kid is good - but let’s not begin to say things like “Jimmy better start looking over his shoulder.” That’s complete non-sense. He’s won 3 games. Let’s give him time. The worst thing we could possibly do would be pile the praise and pressure on him early. And remember that Gustavsson guy we signed for a few years? I don’t think we’re looking to unload him right away.

That being said - the Griffins looked excellent today. The Nyquist-Tatar-Andersson line is incredibly dominant when they’re on the ice. Mrazek looks incredibly comfortable and quick from post to post. It’s a stark contrast to what I witnessed the first few games.

If I had any gripes, it would be that the officiating was absolutely horrid throughout most of the game, and though GR capitalized with a shorthanded goal, the power play could hardly generate any chances. Brenden Smith also needs to stop looking like a future Jonathan Ericsson. Way too many mistakes from a guy who was supposed to shine in DET this year.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 11/07/12 at 06:41 PM ET

rrasco's avatar

I was bitching about Mrazek not getting the start on Friday.  I was there and they give McCollum the freaking start and let Petr sit on the bench.  Ask my neighbor, I was hot the whole game, ESPECIALLY when McCollum mishandled the puck in his own end, eventually leading to a turnover and the GWG with 3:00 left in the 3rd.

Posted by rrasco from TEXAS on 11/07/12 at 06:45 PM ET

Avatar

The kid is good - but let’s not begin to say things like “Jimmy better start looking over his shoulder.” That’s complete non-sense. He’s won 3 games.

Well, the only time he hasn’t been dominant as a pro player was as a 17 year old rookie in the OHL.

Jimmy doesn’t need to look over his shoulder, but the better Mrazek does the less immediate bargaining power Howard has with Detroit, especially with regards to term.

If Mrazek continues to play very well, and he has played at a very high level for over 100 games plus numerous international competitions, then Howard’s not going to get a super-long extension offer from Detroit.  Maybe 5 years tops with a NTC that disappears after two or three seasons.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/07/12 at 06:58 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.