There's an old saying that the two most popular guys in Detroit are the Lions' backup QB and the Red Wings' backup goaltender. I can't say much about the guy behind Matthew Stafford right now, but it's possible that the Wings' portion of that saying is more true right now than it has been in a long time.
Jimmy Howard is the starting goalie for the #RedWings in Friday's opener. Mrazek will start Saturday in Carolina.— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) October 7, 2015
With Jimmy Howard being named the opening day starter, that essentially makes Petr Mrazek, the guy who won the starting job for last year's playoffs, the backup again.
Here's the thing, and we discussed this at-length during this week's episode of WIIM Radio, but the Wings' schedule in October makes having the goaltending "problem" they have right now a very good one to have. Detroit plays 11 games during the month of October and eight of those are on a Friday or a Saturday this month, meaning four back-to-back setups. This is the perfect opportunity to have two starter-caliber goalies share the load.
Honestly, Howard starting game one isn't all that meaningful in the grand scheme of things. You'd like to attach a great deal of importance to game 1 out of 82, but it's too long a season to worry about defining "The Starter" right now.
Also, the two goalies played very close to an equal amount of minutes during the preseason and Jimmy Howard slightly outplayed Mrazek. Both goalies allowed seven goals, but Howard faced more shots and slightly better competition firing those shots on net. While rebound control still remains a question, the leaner, quicker Jimmy Howard has looked excellent so far.
My only concern about this move is that I think Petr Mrazek is the more-popular goalie among Wings fans, so starting Howard at home puts more pressure on him to perform. Looking at the schedule, if Howard starting on Friday means that Mrazek will play only on the four Saturday games we have in October, that means Mrazek won't play a game in the Joe Louis arena throughout the entire month. Howard struggling could make for some fun-to-read fan backlash.
Honestly though, I think this might be a good play for Jeff Blashill. If both goalies are just about the same, I think using the big difference between them where it matters would be a good strategy. Petr Mrazek is a much better puck-mover as a goalie, so perhaps playing him on the road where the goalie may need to help move the puck a little more due to the match up battle could work out very well.
Game one is Friday night. Let's see how Howard handles it.