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The Wolf Pack with Marek Mazanec

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The Wolf Pack are winning more with Mazanec between the pipes, but there’s still a lot of work to do in Hartford.

Nashville Predators v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Rangers front office signed Marek Mazanec to help bolster the team’s goaltending depth, specifically in Hartford.

Before Mazanec entered the picture, first-year pro Chris Nell and rookie Alexander Georgiev were both struggling with the Wolf Pack; they both had below .900 save percentages before December. After Mazanec joined the team, Nell was demoted to the ECHL to play with the Adirondack Thunder. And, as expected, Georgiev lost his grip on the starting role to the more accomplished and experienced Czech.

“We were looking for more balance,” Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge told the Hartford Courant. “Mazanec adds to our experience with our first-year goalie in Georgiev.”

Since Mazanec joined the team, he’s taken six of the Wolf Pack’s eight starts, while Georgiev’s two starts since the goalie shake-up both came in the second games of back-to-back situations. In other words, we can safely assume that the 26-year-old Mazanec is Hartford’s new starter.

The Wolf Pack have responded well to the new face in the goal crease. Thus far, Mazanec has backstopped Hartford to a 4-1-1 record. However, Mazanec has allowed three or more goals in five of the games he’s started in and accumulated a modest .902 save percentage. Yep. It’s not great.

The good news for the Rangers is that Mazanec is capable of playing better. Last season with the Milwaukee Admirals (the Nashville Predators AHL affiliate), Mazanec posted a .912 save percentage through 47 games. He did struggle to put up solid numbers in the more competitive KHL with HC Slovan Bratislava before signing with the Rangers, but Mazanec’s AHL track record speaks for itself – he’s a capable and accomplished starter in the AHL.

The Rangers farm team has the second-worst GA/GP in the AHL (3.65). And lackluster play from Hartford’s goaltenders isn’t the only factor at play in that alarming statistic. The defense in front of Mazanec, Georgiev, and Nell has left a lot to be desired.

As a whole, the Wolf Pack’s blue line is a young group that has struggled with consistency; there are only three holdovers from last season’s defense. That’s a lot of turnover, even for an AHL team. The leader of the blue line is third-year pro Ryan Graves. The Wolf Pack’s alternate captain plays on the first pair with rookie Neal Pionk. Behind that first pair are Ryan Sproul, John Gilmour, Tony DeAngelo, Brandon Crawley, and Vince Pedrie. Sproul, 24, is the veteran of the group.

Interestingly enough, the Wolf Pack have excelled at special teams this season. But the team’s even strength play, particularly in the defensive zone, needs to improve – and there’s no time like the present. With Vinni Lettieri in New York for the foreseeable future, McCambridge needs his defense and goaltending to be better than ever. I

With that being said, expecting Hartford to turn things around in one season is simply asking too much. Rebuilding the Rangers farm team is going to take time.