Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard has been a highlight machine as of late, making some spectacular saves and improving his personal statistics as the Avalanche wind down this season of nightmares.
Not only has Pickard been making the big, timely saves that help keep his team in the game when perhaps they shouldn’t be, his numbers in the last several games rival some of the NHL’s best goaltenders.
A short period of struggle in mid-February made it look less and less like Pickard was the goalie that could carry the next generation of Avalanche to glory. It was critical for the 24-year-old to find his groove.
In three consecutive starts in February, Pickard faced the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers. In all three, Pickard posted a sub-.900 save percentage and allowed a total of eleven goals. Those numbers certainly aren’t ideal for someone who is in an “audition” for the goaltender of the future. It was a wake-up call for Pickard and Avs fans alike as they began to worry about what the future held.
In the eleven games since Pickard’s three-game skid, he has posted a .925 save percentage or better in nine games and has allowed two goals or less in eight.
Pickard’s recent numbers are easily comparable to one of the league’s best, 2016 Vezina Trophy winner and probable 2017 Vezina finalist Braden Holtby. In Holtby’s last eleven games, he has had a save percentage of .925 or above just six times and let in two goals or fewer in only seven.
Of course, Calving Pickard isn’t exactly worthy of a Vezina consideration, but his recent numbers are an indication that he is beyond capable of taking over a full-time netminding position given the appropriate supporting cast.
It must be noted, however, that the two games where Pickard had below a .925 save percentage, the numbers were alarmingly low. In one game, against the Winnipeg Jets, Pickard gave up five goals on 20 shots and was pulled about halfway through the second period, good for a .750 save percentage.
The next performance from Pickard that was less than ideal was at home against the Ottawa Senators where Pickard put up a .871 with four goals allowed on 27 shots.
Now that there is finally a reasonable sample size in a given season to truly assess his game, there has been some obvious inconsistencies in his play. Pickard will go through a stretch of impressive performances, suddenly, there will be one game, or sometimes several, that will be well below the standard regression.
However, if Pickard is capable of playing over 70 percent of his games allowing two goals or less, as he has lately, then it is clear he is the least of Colorado’s worries. There is an obvious desire to not have such a drastic variance in his on and off days, but as long as the good is dramatically outweighing the bad, as it is right now, there can be nothing but elation surrounding Pickard’s future with the Avs.
It seems as though the Calvin Pickard Avalanche fans have grown to know and love has found his game in the recent stretch. Maintaining consistency and continuing to put up the numbers he has lately should be his focus. From there, the Avalanche fan base, front office, and team can head into the offseason assured that their goalie of the future is viable and can meet and even exceed expectations.