Picking apart Pickard’s strong showing in Arizona
Calvin Pickard isn’t the first name you think of when you think of the Colorado Avalanche crease but maybe, with the expansion draft coming up, he’s a name more fans should be thinking about.
In a stellar performance against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, Semyon Varlamov’s backup stopped 24 of 26 shots against in only his second appearance of the 2016-17 season.
You’d never know he was coming in after so much time spent on the bench, though. His depth was excellent, he tracked with precision, and he stayed calm and in control. He limited rebounds – and was cognizant of doing so – and played his style without much discomfort.
For a smaller netminder, he certainly seemed in control of his net.
It’s hard to pick just a single save for Pickard that kept his team in the game, so we’ll look at a few of his strong moments from throughout the contest.
Although he was beat glove side on both of Arizona’s goals, Pickard kept an active glove hand through all three periods. Here’s a look at two of his key stops glove side:
Here, Brad Richardson fires from just below the faceoff dot, trying to find the back of the net over Pickard’s shoulder. Maybe he assumed the smaller netminder would be easy to beat up high if he dropped too early, but Pickard stays up, arguably longer than his tandem partner, Varlamov, might in a similar situation. You see him follow the puck into his glove and make an easy save, even with plenty of action happening around his crease.
Here, things were a little bit more lucky than skilled for Pickard; if the puck deflected even a tiny bit lower off of his glove, it went in.
If he hadn’t gotten a piece of the shot, though, it would have cleanly found the back of the net; despite plenty of traffic directly in front of Martin Hanzal’s stick on the release, Pickard found a way to get a piece and keep the game tilted in his team’s favor.
In both scenarios, Pickard’s glove is just as crucial as his eyes, and he uses both well. Watch him follow the puck from the release into his hand; he knows where the shot came from and where it’s going.
“I never had that feeling like we were going to lose. We all felt confident that we were executing the game plan really well, and we outplayed the other team in all three zones.”
Although he wasn’t overly active playing the puck, that was another strong area in Pickard’s game, particularly when joining the man advantage with well-executed stretch passes through and out of the defensive zone. Take a look a key example here:
Finally, we’ve got a look at his rebound control.
Pickard plays much deeper than you’d expect a smaller-statured goaltender to play (good for today’s game, if a bit unexpected), but Domingue was by far the more conservative goaltender in the contest depth-wise.
More than his depth, though, take a look at his rebound control on this quick one-two of shots by Coyotes forward Max Domi. Once again, it’s all about the eyes; Pickard stops the first shot with a soft reverse-VH execution, finds his rebound, and quickly adjusts to stop the second one with another clean pad save. He made a hard save look easy, then did it again just moments later.
The Colorado Avalanche protecting Semyon Varlamov in the expansion draft seems almost like a no-brainer. He’s a Vezina-worthy big name starter, and he’s got the experience with Colorado to back it up.
Pickard’s performance against Arizona on Saturday night, though, begs the question of whether Varlamov really is the answer long-term, or at least, the better answer.
The NHL, on the surface, seems to be gravitating towards bigger netminders. Skaters like Ben Bishop, Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko, Matt Murray, and Connor Hellebuyck all stand out as names that tower over the ice in net, and do so successfully. After all, the bigger the player, the more net they cover. It seems like simple logic.
Pickard stands at just 6 feet even, though, and you’d hardly notice. He stays on his feet long enough that he’s tough to beat up high, he’s strengthened his tracking to present a noticeable asset, and his comfort with playing deeper make him a very viable option in today’s game. He doesn’t seem like a prime candidate for groin trouble beyond what’s expected in net, and he’s got a confident, well-executed game.
It’s hard to tell exactly what Colorado would want to do with their situation in net come the time for the expansion draft. They could want to hold on to Varlamov and expose Pickard, giving Vegas another strong option to add to their tandem early on.
If they want to hold on to the less expensive option, though, there’s a lot to like about their little-watched backup.