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Petr Mrazek delivers yet again for Blackhawks: ‘He's been our rock all year'

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The Chicago Blackhawks are nearing the end of the 2023-24 season, and I've officially run out of words to describe what Petr Mrazek has meant to the team. And I'm not the only one.

"There isn't much you can say anymore," Connor Bedard said. "It's unbelievable."

Bedard is referencing Mrazek's 42-save outing in the Blackhawks' 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday at the United Center. It took 32 shots before the Stars finally made him crack.

"Petr stood on his head, as he has all season," Seth Jones said. "We played a lot of defensive zone."

The Blackhawks registered only 17 shots on goal, which is tied for their second-fewest in a game this season. They gave up 44 shots and a total of 89 shot attempts, the latter of which is their second-most of the campaign.

At one point, the Blackhawks were being outshot 32-11 and yet they were winning 3-0. That doesn't happen without Mrazek's performance to that point.

"I don't know how many shots he had today," said Bedard, who ended a seven-game goal drought with a power-play goal. "But some of those saves he's making is crazy."

The 32-year-old goaltender saved 2.15 goals above expected, per Natural Stat Trick. And no surprise, he was named the No. 1 star of the game.

"Petr was solid all night for us," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "We have to credit him to keep us in that game and let us find it in the second."

Mrazek said it didn't take long for him to feel dialed in.

"Early in the first period, they were coming shots early on me," Mrazek said. "That first period set the whole game for me."

Mrazek faced 14 shots in the first period, and his workload got heavier in the second, when he faced 23 shots total. A few of them came during a 5-on-3 power play.

"Second period, especially," Mrazek replied when asked whether he was a little tired after the game. "I needed that break between the second and third. They were coming hard."

The Blackhawks bent but didn't break in the third period after the Stars made a late push to cut the deficit to 3-2 following a late power play and 6-on-5 opportunity. Jones joked "we were close to snapping."

But the Blackhawks didn't snap because Mrazek helped the Blackhawks shut the door, and he did so in his 50th start of the season, which is a new career-high.

"The No. 1 thing was to be healthy," Mrazek said of what this season has meant to him. "And the work with Jimmy [Waite] that we did over the two seasons helped me moving forward, so those two things I can appreciate and I'm thankful for."

It's crucial for a rebuilding team like the Blackhawks to have a goaltender like Mrazek between the pipes, especially on nights where the team isn't at its best. He can help make up for some the mistakes made by the rookies, whose psyche could take a hit if breakdowns constantly lead to goals.

Often times, Mrazek has bailed out the Blackhawks, even though it hasn't translated to many wins for him this season.

"I'm always amazed at his facial expressions," Richardson said. "There's no frustration, whether it's a goal going in or after a blitz, and he saved our butts again. ... He's just the same always, and I think that's great for a goaltender. And he's competitive.

"But it's really good for the players because he’ll talk to the players and they're able to ask him something, where — I mentioned before — most goalies you just want to stay away from them, leave them in their own zone. He's approachable, which is important for the D especially to maybe have communication and smooth it out during the game. You don't have time to wait for after the game or in the next practice.

"He's really 100% professional all the time, a great battler for us. Where we are right now, just rebuilding this team, we're going to need him some nights like tonight."

I'm not sure where the Blackhawks would be without Mrazek this season.

"We're lucky to have him back there," Bedard said. "He's been our rock all year, for sure."

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