Earlier this season, Carter Hutton became just the seventh goaltender to record a win for the Nashville Predators. Ever. They have been in the National Hockey League since 1998.
Saturday night, that exclusive club added another member when rookie Marek Mazanec backstopped the Predators to a somewhat surprising 7-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
“It’s awesome,” Mazanec said after the game. “I’m really happy.”
And in true Predator goaltender fashion, Mazanec was anything but a “can’t miss” prospect. Nashville selected him in the sixth round (179th overall) in the 2012 Entry Draft.
Playing his first North American season, the chances that the 22-year-old Czech would see time with the Predators in 2013-14 were remote at best. But Pekka Rinne’s hip infection changed many things in Nashville’s goaltending hierarchy.
Following fellow countryman Tomas Vokoun, Mazanec is the second Czech-born, right-handed catching goaltender to record a victory for the Predators.
Although the Predators had four losses in their last four games played prior to Saturday night, the goaltending wasn’t horrible, and could hardly be blamed for the slide.
Still a team that has long relied on Rinne to keep them in games in the good times, and steal some in slightly less than good times, needs their goaltenders to be good to give them a chance to win.
“He’s been great for us,” Shea Weber said. “You look at the games and you might think otherwise, but he’s played well for us. We haven’t given him the support offensively or defensively, so tonight he was great. “It was good to see him get his first win.”
As happy as the Predators were to get that long awaited win, they were equally as happy to see Mazanec get his first win.
“He’s a great goalie, a great goaltender, a good kid,” Craig Smith said. “He’s going to be a good goalie. I’m really excited to see where we go from here.”
And in this 15th season of the Predators, it is only the second time that more than two goaltenders have recorded a win in a season, the other time being 2005-06.
Young Mazanec may be limited in his English proficiency, but his listening skills are good. Being so young and so new to the Nashville system, he has obviously picked up what his coaches have been saying to the team during their recent slide.
“I’m happy because the team found a way back to Predator hockey,” he said. “That’s the more important thing now.”
He’s fitting right in already.