The Pittsburgh Penguins were 17-2-1 in their past 20 games. The Detroit Red Wings had only won five times in their past 18 games. The Penguins play well at home and the Red Wings perform poorly on the road. Every statistical analysis screamed that the Red Wings would be in trouble against the Penguins.
But goaltender Calvin Pickard turned in a memorable performance and Detroit’s bottom six forwards created two goals to allow the Red Wings to post a 3-2 shootout win against the Penguins. The takeaways:
Clutch in the Crease
The Pickard 36-save performance illustrates the importance of goaltending depth in this COVID-19 season. Alex Nedelljkovic needed a day off after seven consecutive starts. He will play Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thomas Greiss is still unavailable because he is just out of COVID-19 protocols. Enter Pickard to pick up his first win since the 2020-21 season.
He played a strong game against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has been averaging four goals per game for the past 20 games. He stopped Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in the shootout.
“Obviously you see those guys scoring all the time in shootouts,” Pickard said. “I wanted to challenge them, be patient, let them make the first move.”
Pickard, 29, is a veteran goalie who has played impressively for the Grand Rapids Griffins (13-8-5, 2.40 goals-against) this season. He is a popular player with teammates.
“Calvin is a warrior,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “He battles to win games, so we just felt this was the right game. He did a great job. Obviously, in the shootout, he shuts them out, that’s huge. Guys played real hard for Calvin. He’s a great, great competitor. Whenever he’s played for us for the most part, he’s done a real good job.
Filip Zadina scored his first goal in 19 games and Givani Smith netted his first in 15 games. That’s an indication that your team is raising its level. The Red Wings haven’t been getting much offensive production from their bottom six forwards of late.
Zadina needed this goal badly for confidence reasons. He was drafted with the idea that he was going to be a goal scorer. But it hasn’t happened yet for him. Zadina only has five goals this season. He’s still only 22.
Zadina’s goal was a power play, giving Detroit a power play tally in seven of its last nine games.
“Filip Zadina last two games has played really well,” Blashill said. “The best part of that power-play goal was the poise he showed below the goal line to get the puck up top and then go to the cage and score those dirty goals. Him and I have talked lots about this – it’s hard to score skill goals on a consistent basis in this league. It’s hard to beat goalies, not even from the outside, but even in the upper slot. You got to find ways to score net-front type goals.”
Putting the D in Detroit
The Red Wings gave up eight goals in their last outing to Chicago. They have given up 17 goals in their last three losses. They needed a strong defensive effort, especially against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has Crosby and Malkin. Holding the Penguins to two goals is a quality defensive showing.
“I thought it was a good answer by our guys (after the Chicago game).” Blashill said. “We had a tough game the other day, we went out and practiced, it wasn’t a super-hard practice but there was a mentality to it. I thought our guys did a good job of showing up and playing the right way. Our guys want to win, I 100 percent believe they want to play the right way. It’s a process at times to learn how to do that and they’re working towards it. The character of our group is excellent. We just got to keep grinding, keep finding ways to play the right way on a consistent basis, make sure we’re managing the puck, we’re limiting scoring chances and also playing in the O-zone as much as possible.
Raymond Delivers Again
Rookie Lucas Raymond, 19, scored the only Detroit goal in the shootout. He’s not finding the scoresheet as often as he did earlier in the season. But he continues to find ways to help the team be successful. He looked dangerous against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This young player always finds a way to make a play to help his team.
Moritz Seider vs. Sidney Crosby
If you want Detroit fans to love you, then mix it up with Crosby. Red Wings fans already love Seider but you could feel the love grow when he got into a shoving match at the end of regulation. Both players ended up with minor penalties.
Seider doesn’t care who you are: he’s going to push back if you challenge him. The German rookie has been playing like a veteran since his first week in the NHL. Seider played 24:45 against the Penguins.