Though there's no definite number, Oxford Dictionaries estimates there are over 250,000 words in the English language. That's not including slang, technical or scientific terms. For those who grow up with English as their native tongue, it's often hard to fathom just how vast the language really is, and how so many of the "rules" are broken on a sentence-by-sentence basis.
Marek Mazanec, a sixth-round pick (No. 179) of the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Draft, knew just a handful of those 250,000 -- if that. After three seasons backstopping HC Plzen of the Czech Extraliga, the highest level of hockey in the Czech Republic, Mazanec split the 2013-14 season almost evenly between the Predators and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.
The adjustment was twofold.
"Everything was new for me last year. Different country, language, people, hockey style," Mazanec said. "The hardest part was my bad English. I got lucky [with] the people in the Predators organization. Everyone tried to help me, so they made it little easier for me."
The St. Louis Blues have won six games in a row despite injuries to forwards Paul Stastny and T.J. Oshie (and a temporary absence for captain David Backes). One of the biggest reasons the Blues have stormed back near the top of the League standings after an uneven start is the play of forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
While Stastny was the headliner among the offseason additions, with forward Jori Lehtera and a full-time roster spot for goaltender Jake Allen probably next in line, one of the best reasons to think St. Louis could improve in 2014-15 was the maturation of Tarasenko and forward Jaden Schwartz. Tarasenko is off to a great start with eight goals and 14 points in 12 games, including the best goal of the season to date Monday at Madison Square Garden and then the lone goal of the game one day later across the Hudson River at Prudential Center.
Tarasenko is already one of the top Russian players in the NHL (in the NHL is an important distinction, because he was not happy with his role on the national team in February). Where does he stack up among the top Russians in the League? Here's a look at the most productive players from his homeland since Tarasenko joined the Blues at the start of the 2012-13 season:
Washington is averaging 3.08 goals per game and allowing 25.2 shots. Seven times this season, the Capitals have held an opponent to 25 or fewer shots, something they did 12 times in two seasons under former coach Adam Oates. The Capitals are also surrendering about 10 fewer 5-on-5 shot attempts per 60 minutes than they did last season, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
That vast defensive improvement, though, hasn't led to early-season success.
The Capitals enter a preview of the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) embroiled in a five-game losing streak.
The New Jersey Devils scored three goals in the final 3:25 of regulation, ending Jake Allen’s shutout streak at 184:38, but David Backes’ power-play goal at 17:28 of the final frame stood as the game-winner as the St. Louis Blues won their seventh consecutive game.
* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Allen’s shutout streak is the longest ever by a Blues rookie, surpassing Ernie Wakely's mark of 150:50 set in 1969-70. The last NHL rookie with a streak as long as Allen’s was Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09 (199:28).
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