Goaltending was major question mark for the Red Wings coming into this series, and Petr Mrazek provided a reassuring answer with his strong play in Game 1 as Detroit edged the favored Lightning 3–2 on Thursday night.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
1. Mrazek left his mark.
In making his NHL playoff debut, the 23-year-old netminder didn’t disappoint with a 44-save performance.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos-led offense was the league’s best during the regular season, scoring 3.16 goals per game. On Thursday night, Mrazek was beaten by Brian Boyle on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, and he was screened on Nikita Nesterov’s goal in the third period. But other than that, the 2010 fifth-round pick showed flashes of brilliance and made several key saves. One of his biggest of the night came in the second period when Cedric Paquette and Valtteri Filppula teamed up on a two-on-one.
Mrazek also made several big stops while the Lightning applied pressure with Detroit clinging to its 3–2 lead late in the third period, the same frame in which the Wings played eight minutes on the penalty kill. In all, the Bolts were 0-for-7 on the power play.
2. Bishop’s postseason debut was less than righteous.
Ben Bishop is supposed to be the goalie who leads GM Steve Yzerman’s Tampa Bay team to the glory days it last enjoyed in 2004. He's a main reason why the Bolts are in the playoffs—he won 40 games with a .916 save percentage and a 2.32 GAA—but on Thursday night he raised some concerns.
For as busy as his counterpart Mrazek was, Bishop, also playing in his first NHL playoff game (he missed last season’s playoff run when the Bolts were swept in the first round), barely had to break a sweat. He saw just 14 shots, but it’s pretty tough to win on any night when your netminder’s save percentage is a paltry .786.
Bishop allowed two goals to Pavel Datsyuk, including one when the wizardly veteran roofed a shot just eight seconds into the second period. Luke Glendening’s game-winner was one Tampa Bay’s keeper should have had. While Glendening did put on the ritz with a spin-o-rama to get around Filppula, Bishop appeared to be prepared in the butterfly position, but Glendening’s backhander trickled in through the five-hole.
3. Datsyuk was up to his old tricks.
Entering the playoffs with 108 career postseason points (good for seventh among active players), was Detroit's offensive star.
Datsyuk opened the scoring with a first period tip-in. Kyle Quincey rifled a low-to-the-ice shot from the point, and the wily center, who had snuck behind Filppula, was left unattended by the Lightning. Datsyuk got his stick on the puck and beat Bishop.
The Bolts again made the mistake of leaving the 13-year veteran unguarded off the opening draw in the second period. After winning the face-off to the right boards, Darren Helm chased down the puck and three Bolts followed. That left much of the high slot wide open, where No. 13 was all alone.
Helm made the quick pass and Datsyuk made the finish look easy, blasting it top shelf over Bishop’s shoulder.
If the Wings want to get out of this round, Datsyuk and Mrazek (assuming Mike Babcock sticks with him) will be key to their success. If the Bolts hope to advance, they've got to get their power play cranking.