A milestone achievement has come for the Nashville Predators and goaltender Marek Mazanec, as the most surprising player of their season has earned recognition from the NHL as Rookie of the Month for November.
From the NHL's press release:
Nashville Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec, who posted a 5-4-1 record with a 2.00 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 appearances, has been named the NHL Rookie of the Month for November.
Mazanec edged New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (4-9-13 in 15 games), San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (5-5-10 in 13 games), Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli (4-5-9 in 13 games), Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (4-5-9 in 14 games) and Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (3-6-9 in 15 games) for the honor.
Mazanec, 22, made his NHL debut Nov. 8 versus the Winnipeg Jets, stopping 22 shots in relief of Carter Hutton. He recorded his first victory with a career-high 39 saves in a 7-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Nov. 16. Mazanec posted his first career shutout in the following game, making 27 saves in a 2-0 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings Nov. 19. He added his second blank sheet with a 19-save performance in a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Nov. 27.
Mazanec, a native of Pisek, Czech Republic, was selected by the Predators in the sixth round (179th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. He joins fellow Czech Republic native Hertl (October) as a Rookie of the Month winner this season.
In light of Pekka Rinne's hip infection, Mazanec's play has been a bacon-saver for the Predators, who would probably be languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference otherwise. He has supplanted both Carter Hutton, signed as a free agent to back up Rinne, and Magnus Hellberg, the most highly-touted goalie prospect in the team's system, on his way to earning the starter's role for the last few weeks.
The question facing Smashville, of course, is how long the good times will last. Goaltending performance can prove maddeningly variable at times, and many a bright young netminder has wilted under the increasing glare of league-wide attention.
For the time being, however, raise a glass in praise of Marek Mazanec, your NHL Rookie of the Month.
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