Marek Mazanec and the Road to 2014-15

Marek Mazanec’s first professional playing season in North America was a marathon. He handled himself rather well and it sets the stage for an exciting sophomore season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When the Milwaukee Admirals were swept out of the Calder Cup Playoffs by the Toronto Marlies there wasn’t a whole lot to feel happy about. The run into the playoffs was so promising. The forwards were cranking out good numbers. And it all went for naught.

Perhaps lost in all that disappointment was a stallar display from Marek Mazanec in net. The numbers might not necessarily back that up – 3 games, 3 losses, 3.03 goals against average, and a 0.898 save percentage – but his work kept that opening round series from being down-right painful.

For those still picky about those numbers, and yes he is in the second round, but Mazanec has better playoff numbers than the AHL’s top goalie this season Jake Allen: 3.21 goals against average and a 0.879 save percantage.

What impresses me the most when it comes to Mazanec’s 2013-14 season is the massive work load he endured all while experiencing his first ever North American pro-hockey season. Example: These are his games played (GP) numbers, season-to-season at all levels, dating back all the way back to his under-18 playing days with IHC Pisek.

2004-05: 1 GP
2005-06: 9 GP
2006-07: 15 GP
2007-08: 52 GP
2008-09: 47 GP
2009-10: 51 GP
2010-11: 63 GP
2011-12: 48 GP
2012-13: 55 GP
2013-14: 59 GP

Those numbers are all via Elite Prospects and the bulk of those seasons come from the lower-tiers of the Czech leagues, under-18/under-20 teams, and the Junior International set-up. If you want to dig into his playing numbers at a professional level it goes like this:

2009-10, HC Plzen: 1 GP, 9.00 GAA, 0.769 SV%

2010-11, HC Plzen: 15 GP, 2.79 GAA, 0.911 SV%

2011-12, HC Plzen: 19 GP, 2.96 GAA, 0.900 SV%
~ Playoffs: 5 GP, 2.15 GAA, 0.919 SV% ~

2012-13, HC Plzen: 21 GP, 2.49 GAA, 0.912 SV%
~ Playoffs: 20 GP, 2.13 GAA, 0.932 SV% ~

2013-14, Nashville Predators: 25 GP, 2.80 GAA, 0.902 SV%

2013-14, Milwaukee Admirals: 31 GP, 2.44 GAA, 0.914 SV%
~ Playoffs: 3 GP, 3.03 GAA, 0.898 SV% ~

His most comparable season to this year was, as you may expect, his season prior to making the leap to North America. He had an amazing playoff run with HC Plzen that culminated in winning it all.

You can find our buddy Maz on the left side of the suited up players in the second row. (Photo Credit: HCSkoda)

So, when you start looking at the breakdown of his 2013-14 season, you begin to realize how taxing the campaign really was considering the raised level of competition and amount of games logged.

October, 2013
AHL: 3 GP, 3 wins, 1.96 GAA, 0.933 SV%

November, 2013
AHL: 2 GP, 2 wins, 2.00 GAA, 0.933 SV%
NHL: 11 GP, 5 wins, 2.48 GAA, 0.932 SV%

December, 2013
NHL: 8 GP, 2 wins, 2.52 GAA, 0.865 SV%

January, 2014
NHL: 6 GP, 1 win, 2.79 GAA, 0.883 SV%
AHL: 7 GP, 3 wins, 2.51 GAA, 0.913 SV%

February, 2014
AHL: 7 GP, 1 win, 3.07 GAA, 0.900 SV%

March, 2014
AHL: 8 GP, 5 wins, 2.87 GAA, 0.886 SV%

April, 2014
AHL: 6 GP, 4 wins, 2.01 GAA, 0.934 SV%

May, 2014
AHL: 1 GP, 1.02 GAA, 0.955 SV%

It was that stretch from January to March, right after his reassignment from Nashville, where he was the team’s work horse in net. During that span he played in 70.9% of the Admirals games (22 GP out of 31 games). Then he caught his second wind out of the team’s four game road trip in late March: 3/21 @ Hamilton: L, 4-2… 3/22 @ Toronto: W, 5-1… 3/23 @ Utica: L, 4-3 (SO)… 3/26 @ Rochester: W, 3-1. After that spell where he split time with battery-mate Scott Darling – Mazanec played 6 games, won 5 of them, had a 1.51 goals against average, and a 0.946 save percentage.

There will be some questions that need answering in regards to who backs-up Pekka Rinne next season. Going back to Nashville Predators GM David Poile’s presser on the day Barry Trotz said goodbye – it sounded almost matter-of-fact that Carter Hutton will be re-signed as a free agent and back in Nashville for the 2014-15 season:

“The 51-games for Pekka [Rinne] being out I mean that was really hard to overcome. Carter Hutton couldn’t do it at the time. We put him in and he couldn’t do it. And now he can. I mean, Mitch [Korn], scouts, good scouting, and we got a great number-two next year.” David Poile

Should that be the case, and injuries not being the case, the goaltending situation should be exactly as it was at the start of the 2013-14 season: Pekka ready to be Pekka, Hutton preparing to back-up, and then a tandem of Mazanec to go along with Magnus Hellberg.

It is that stability that should lend extremely well for both to have strong seasons next year – especially Mazanec who played through this past season relatively unscathed on the injury front. For him to be able to settle in -particularly with one team for a full season- it should mean better results from his familiarity and comfort level improving dramatically with that first North American playing season under his belt.

He had plenty thrown at him in a season where he was expected to go 1-A and 1-B with Hellberg from the start. I think Mazanec’s 2014-15 season, with plenty of organizational stability at the goaltending position, should be a strong one for him and the Milwaukee Admirals.

How do you feel Marek Mazanec’s season went? Do you think he is the team’s number-one netminder in 2014-15? If Nashville does not re-sign Carter Hutton – what will that mean for Mazanec and fellow goalies in the system?

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