Colorado Avalanche Should Ride the Hot Goalie

Oct 17, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard (31) takes the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard (31) takes the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
calvin pickard
Apr 7, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard (31) looks on from the ice against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Stars won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche should start playing goalie Calvin Pickard over Semyon Varlamov. Picks is playing better right now.

The Colorado Avalanche have a goalie who is currently undefeated. He’s gone 3-0-0. He has a save percentage of .946 and a goals against average of 1.50. So why is Calvin Pickard only 3-0-0?

Is it because the other goalie is the literal $6-million man, aka Semyon Varlamov? That goalie is 2-6-0 with a .881 save percentage and 3.67 goals against average.

It’s time for the Colorado Avalanche to pretend like it’s Las Vegas and ride the hot hand — or, in this case, the hot goalie.

Calvin Pickard’s Stats

More from Mile High Sticking

Calvin Pickard is still green. He’s a respectable (hockey-wise) 24 years old, but he’s only got 40 NHL games under his belt, all with the Colorado Avalanche. His record is 16-13-4 with a .928 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average.

Pickard came into training camp last year ready to challenge Reto Berra for the backup spot and maybe even Varlamov for the starting position. He looked really good, but then-coach — and Hall of Fame goalie — Patrick Roy wanted him to get a lot of experience. So Pickard headed to the AHL and the San Antonio Rampage.

Pickard started out strong, but he had a weak team in front of him and even weaker coaching, it turns out. Nonetheless, he went 9-8-4 with a .917 save percentage and 2.75 goals against average.

Last season, Pickard recorded a shutout with the Rampage and with the Avalanche. This season, he already has a shutout with the Avalanche — his last start, actually. He also shut out the St. Louis Blues after being put into the game. Like I said, he’s the hot goalie.

Calvin Pickard’s Abilities

Calvin Pickard is not as talented as Semyon Varlomov. Varly has lightning fast reflexes and a Joe Cool calm between the pipes.

Pickard is more of a workhorse, a blue collar talent in goal tending. He’s economical in his movements and maintains laser-sharp focus. Pickard is a goalie who’s willing to do anything to improve his game all the time — not just when his coach tells him.

Probably because of their raw talent levels, Varlamov is more likely to cheat in net than Pickard is. Calvin stays steady, while Semyon might get more aggressive.

Mile High Sticking writer, Will Radke, did an even better job of describing why Pickard is a quality goal tender. Radke wrote a post about advanced save percentage — fancy stats for goalies. As of last year, Pickard saved 98.63% of the shots that came from low danger spots — far away or bad-angle shots. (Varlamov was at 96.56%, meaning he let in more soft goals.)

When it came to high danger areas, Pickard was at 84.55%, while Varlamov was at 83.59%. Those aren’t huge differences, but they can be enough to mean a goal in a game — the other team’s game-tyer or even game-winner, perhaps.

Related Story: Colorado Avalanche Goalies

Play Calvin Pickard

Besides the $6-million price tag (Picks makes just $925,000), the Colorado Avalanche have their own reasons to choose Varly over Picks. Some of it is also 332 NHL games to that 40.

There’s also that golden Why Not Us season when Varlamov stole the Central Division for the Colorado Avalanche with his 41-14-6 record. There have been many games besides in that season when Varly “stood on his head” to steal the win.

However, in his comparatively short NHL career, Pickard has done similar. He’s 29-16-13 for a Colorado Avalanche team that averages letting him get shelled with ~30 shots a game.

Calvin Pickard might not make as many highlight reel saves as Semyon Varlamov. However, he might just make more of the meat-and-potatoes saves — the ones that can win the Colorado Avalanche the game.

Next: The Avs Solid Calvin Pickard

And Picks is hot right now. That’s so important for a goalie.

Last season Patrick Roy praised Pickard for having swagger — and Roy should know about the importance of that commodity for a goalie. I daresay Pickard’s swagger is back.

Calvin Pickard’s swagger from the first season:

Yes, it’s a scary proposition, putting the fate of the Colorado Avalanche in a young, relatively green goalie. However, what have we got to lose besides hockey games? And we’re already losing those.