As if the season did not start out poorly enough for the Colorado Avalanche there is yet another issue in Colorado. Despite have 9 starters out of the lineup, 3 rookies on one line and no number one goalie on the bench or ice, the Avs still managed a 4-3 win in regulation over the Carolina Hurricanes. The issue in that game was that the Avs were down 3-1 on 10 shots from the Canes. Reto Berra, Colorado’s backup goaltender, got the nod for that game as the Avalanche and coach Roy seem to have high confidence in the 27 year old goalie.
In Berra’s first game of the season he was sensational, stopping 28 of 27 shots, while Danny Briere scored with .04 seconds to win the game. This win coming just two games after appearing in a season opening 5-0 loss where Berra stopped 10 of 10 shots in relief of Semyon Varlamov. It seemed that the off-season work he had done was paying off, until October 16th against the Ottawa Senators. Berra was run down by both his teammate, John Mitchell and Kyle Turris of Ottawa. Reto would sustain a head injury and miss the rest of that game and the next game in Montreal. Since the injury, Berra has allowed 3 or more goals in every appearance, the first being 3 goals in a win against Toronto. All of a sudden Berra cannot keep the puck out, in his last 4 games, Reto Berra has squandered 13 goals. Against the Flyers it was 4-0 before Colorado made a 3rd period comeback that fell shot to a 4-3 loss. When the Washington Capitals came to town last week, Berra gave up two and then a late very weak goal to Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. That late goal sparked a flurry of faults for Berra as he was pulled in the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes where he allowed 3 goals on 10 shots. Tonight against the Arizona Coyotes, Reto Berra started the game but was pulled after allowing 3 goals in just under 11 minutes of play, the Coyotes only had 8 shots on goal at the time.
Rookie Calvin Pickard was tossed into the fire in Ottawa, he began the day in Cleveland, Ohio where he was preparing himself to start in net for the AHL Lake Erie Monsters. After a morning skate injury to Avalanche starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, the Monsters got a phone call asking them to send Calvin Pickard to Ottawa. After four or more hours of travel and flight, Pickard arrived about an hour prior to the game against the Senators. All seems to be going well, as leader Alex Tanguay takes a pass from Nathan MacKinnon and puts it home just 1:25 time the start of the game. Just moments later Ottawa has the puck in Colorado’s zone looking for their first shot of the game. Ottawa’s young center Kyle Turris was making a break towards the Avs net from the near corner, as he crashes towards the net Avalanche center John Mitchell takes himself and Turris into Reto Berra and the Avs net. Berra would be shaken up on the play and sustain an injury just 2:46 into the game. Calvin Pickard would nervously find the other portions of his gear while training staff would tend to the starting Avs goalie. Finally, Berra would skate off the ice and the 22 year old would find himself in net. A crash course to the NHL for Pickard would see him start his first career game just two days later in Montreal against the NHL leading Canadians. Despite 3 second period goals, Pickard stood solid making 33 of 36 saves and find himself backing up Berra in the next game against the Panthers, where Berra allowed 4 goals, though 2 of the 4 came on a five minute man advantage. Varlamov would come back and that would see Pickard back to Lake Erie.
Everything was starting to look up for the Avs, goalie Semyon Varlamov would be cleared to come back to play and would Start 10 of the next 12 games. The Avs would get two huge come from behind wins against the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, the second of which would see goaltender Semyon Varlamov injured for the second time this season. Pickard would be called up for a second time as well to back up Reto Berra. In game 1 against the Carolina Hurricanes with Berra in net, he would allow 3 goals in the first period on 10 shots, coach Roy would pull Berra and Calvin Pickard would see 17 shots and stop them all in Colorado’s come back 4-3 win.
Tonight, November 25th, Reto Berra would receive his second consecutive start and right away again would allow 3 goals in the first period, this time on just 8 shots. In just over 27 minutes of play Berra has given up 6 goals on 18 shot and again would be pulled. Against the Coyotes in relief, Pickard, would face 25 shots and get them all as the Avalanche would again come back to win 4-3 in overtime.
At trade deadline 2014, the Avalanche organization was one hundred percent certain backup goalie J.S. Gigure would not be back due to retirement. The Colorado Avalanche would trade their 2014 second round pick to the Calgary Flames to obtain Reto Berra. The reasoning, Colorado needed off-season improvement, rather than “risk” a rookie in net for the season and take sacrifice at losing games that could matter, Colorado went with a goaltender who had NHL experience. Not just experience, but that starter experience even though the 27 year old had only played 29 career NHL games. In pre-season 2014-15, some Colorado fans found themselves wondering, why Berra? Calvin Pickard was dominate during his pre-season play after a stellar training camp. Now Avalanche fans are again wondering, why Berra? Reto Berra seems to have lost any confidence he had breaking into this season before his injury.
Maybe the Avalanche organization jumped the gun signing Berra to a 3 year extension rather than a 1 year deal, even though you don’t just give up a 2nd round pick for a 1 year deal. Calvin Pickard is certainly making a statement that he is more than ready to play NHL back up.
The Avalanche will host the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night (November 26th) at Pepsi Center, Calvin Pickard will get his second career start. Colorado has also recalled dman Karl Stollery from Lake Erie in case Erik Johnson cannot play after taking an elbow to the head early in overtime against the Arizona Coyotes Martin Hanzal. Avs will put Semyon Varlamov on injured reserve to make room for Stollery. If Johnson cannot play, that will make 10 starters for Colorado that are out due to injury, although Alex Tanguay is day to day and questionable for the game against the Chicago Blackhawks.