The duel for back-up in Denver seems to be over, though it is not 100% sure what Colorado will do. Just a few weeks ago, Calvin Pickard was re-assigned to Lake Erie even though he had played out of him mind for the Colorado Avalanche. The young goaltender was sent back due to the fact that Semyon Varlamov was healthy and Reto Berra was their number two. Their other reason was for developmental reasons, where Calvin would get to play more in Lake Erie where in Colorado Varlamov was expect to get back to back to back games over and over. Leaving Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic with no choice than to keep the best interest of Calvin above all else.
After Semyon Varlamov went down, Calvin Pickard was called back up, to play and he would not sit on the bench as Coach Roy seemed to have no confidence in Reto Berra. Reto Berra has appeared in one game since his back to back 1st period pulling. In that game, Berra played just over 16 minutes and allowed one goal on just seven shots, proving that mentally, he was not ready to be back in net.
With Calvin Pickard continuing his NHL head turning as the young goalie has allowed one goal in three straight games, winning two and losing a 1-0 overtime game in Pittsburgh. He has also allowed one goal in four of his last six NHL games. He sits second in the NHL with a .939 save percentage and 6th in the NHL with a 2.06 goals against average. Of the three Colorado goalies, Pickard has the best record at 6-5-2 although that could easily be a much better record had the Avalanche been able to score a few extra goals.
So what is next for the 22 year old? After his 34 save performance and 9 round shootout win against the Detroit Redwings, Patrick Roy is certain he is not sending the youngster back to Lake Erie, at least for now. When asked, “Varly is almost back, how tough is it to send Pickard back to Lake Erie?” Patrick would reply, “We’re not sending Pickard down.” “At this time, we’re not gonna send him down, and we’ll make decisions further down in time. But I mean for now, we’re not making any decision.” Roy would continue. When asked about taking Pickard out of the net even when Semyon Varlamov comes back, this is what he had to say. “Obviously it is not easy, but at the same time, let’s not forget what Varly did for us last year. Varly played so well for us, he was the reason why we had 112 points and won our division. Let’s not forget what he did for us, we will talk tomorrow and see if he is ready to play against the Blues, but if he is ready, he will play” (Watch Roy’s post-game interview here)
So for now, it looks like Calvin Pickard has won the right to stay at the NHL level. Colorado will likely carry three goalies until they are able to trade Reto Berra or take a shot at losing him for nothing by sending him to Lake Erie. If Reto Berra is lost to waivers, Colorado will have thrown away their second round pick in 2014. Joe Sakic will want to get some kind of return for the 27 year old goalie and will be looking to deal him once the trade freeze lifts after the holiday.
You do have to go back to the start when Calvin was sent back to Lake Erie for developmental reasons and wonder why it is no longer the same? Though he has proven he can play in the NHL, he will not be playing the amount of games the Avalanche wanted just a few weeks ago. Is it now that Colorado would have a solid backup they can rely on? Someone who can carry some of the weight so Varlamov does not have to? It is all speculation until the back-up slot is sealed by the 22 year old, but if it is not now, it will be next season and Colorado is faced with making that choice.
Joe Sakic signed both Reto Berra and Semyon Varlamov to contract extensions at the end of that season. Berra to a 3 year deal and Varlamov to a 5 year deal, Calvin Pickard will be a Restricted Free Agent at the end of this season. With a new contract in sight, could Calvin Pickard be on the trading block over Reto Berra? If the Avalanche organization has any common sense, the answer would flat out be no, although NHL scouts have been at the last two Colorado games for the young goalie.
On a scoring note, Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson scored his fourth goal in four games against the Redwings. Johnson has eight goals on the season and is two points shy of being the seventh player for Colorado to hit 20 points this season. Erik seems to be playing with the confidence he found last season in his last few games.
Nathan MacKinnon has not scored a goal in 15 games, his last goal came on November 13th against the New York Rangers. MacKinnon has 5 goals and 15 assists this season with an outstanding -10. Nathan has shown flashes of dazzle in the last five games but cannot seem to find his stride.
The Avalanche power play has found a small spark in their last two games, notching two power play goals, one against Buffalo and the other against the Redwings. This spark and solid goaltending could make this team that much closer to a larger win column.
Penalty kill continues to be solid for the Avalanche. The Avalanche still sit in the top 5 for penalty killing and are 8 kills for their last 9. Although the additions of John Mitchell and Marc-Andre Cliché help, when the two went down, the Avs PK took a small hit but still played solid.
Colorado has strung together their third two-game winning streak of the season and are 3-0-2 in their last 5 games. The Avalanche will look to get to .500 as a holiday gift against the St. Louis Blues on December 23rd. The Blues and Avs have gone to overtime in both games this season, St. Louis walked away with both 3-2 wins.
In game one, Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice for St. Louis, power play goals by Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon would lead the Avs to overtime and a shootout. Semyon Varlamov received the shootout loss and made 27 of 29 saves in the game.
In game two, Erik Johnson would score twice for the Avalanche, while Blues defensemen Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo would both scored as the defensive scorers duked it out. It would be an early overtime winner though by TJ Oshie that would seal the win for St. Louis. Calvin Pickard would be the overtime loser for the Avalanche stopping 39 of 42 shots in the game.
The Blues are 1-1-1 since playing the Avalanche on December 13th. With two days off the Blues will head to Denver where Paul Stastny will be viciously booed for the entire game. It is likely with the two days off that Colorado will face Martin Brodeur for the first time this season, Brodeur signed with St. Louis on December 2nd and did not play against the Avs on the 13th of December. Although, Jake Allen holds a 11-3-2 record and has played fairly well in his career against the Avalanche. Martin Brodeur allowed 6 goals in his last outing against the Los Angeles Kings and is looking to rebound. In four games this season, Brodeur has the worst stats of his NHL career since his 4 game rookie season in 1991-1992 with New Jersey.
If healthy the Avalanche could see Semyon Varlamov take the net at home, looking to improve his 4-6-5 record and a 2-3-1 home record. It is amazing to think in 32 games, Varlamov has only played six total games at the Pepsi Center this season. Reto Berra will more the likely be a healthy scratch in the return of Semyon Varlamov as his future with Colorado is no longer certain. If Semyon is not ready to play, Calvin Pickard will get the nod in net, after a 39 save thriller against the Blues in his first game, the kid will be looking to win at home. At Pepsi Center, Pickard is 3-3-1, one of the three wins came after Reto Berra was pulled in the first period after allowing 3 goals. As a starter, Calvin is 2-3-1 at Pepsi Center and looks to shed the losses by adding some wins with a healthier Avalanche lineup. In those 7 games, he has allowed 16 goals but only 7 of those goals have been since his latest call up and are the only 3 home games since this call up. Reto Berra is 1-1-1 at Pepsi Center this season allowing 10 goals in those games and 3 more in a game his lost record of after being pulled in the Avs comeback win. Reto’s last win was against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Novermber 6th and last start was November 25th.
Key to success against the Blues:
Colorado will need to shut down Vladimir Tarasenko, TJ Oshie and top two defenders in Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo.
Goal scorers need to score, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly for offense, Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie on defense.
Solid goaltending by either Semyon Varlamov or Calvin Pickard
The Avalanche and Blues will face-off twice in three games just six days apart. St. Louis will head home to play Dallas before hosting the Avalanche and Colorado will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks. A lot of points up for grabs in the next three games for both teams. St. Louis could pull further away with and extra six points, or the Avs could catch up with the much needed points. Adding six more points to their recent 8 points would boost the Avs into playoff contention with a healthy lineup that lacks a major piece in only Jamie McGinn if Varlamov can finally stay healthy (we will know in about six games.)
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