Petr Mrazek, not Jimmy Howard, will start Game 1 of the playoffs for the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday in Tampa Bay.
Coach Mike Babcock confirmed it today, giving the nod in goal to Mrazek, a 23-year-old with no playoff experience, over Howard, a veteran with 45 postseason starts to his name, not to mention a pretty big contract.
Howard struggled after returning from an injury in February. He finished the season with a .910 save percentage, compared to Mrazek’s .918 mark.
But while Mrazek posted two shutouts in his last six starts, the decision to start such an inexperienced netminder against a dangerous Lightning squad, the NHL’s top offensive team, is a gamble for Babcock.
Then again, it may have been a bigger gamble to start Howard, who was given ample opportunity to prove he was still the best option, only to fall short of doing so.