As a former goaltender, I’ve known the sinking feeling that was engulfing Alex Nedeljkovic. Felt the stinging shame that overcame him as the Detroit Red Wings netminder fished the puck from inside his net.
During the first period of Thursday’s NHL game at Little Caesars Arena against the Minnesota Wild, Nedeljkovic inexplicably reached out and swatted at a netural zone shot from Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek that was going wide through his legs and into the net.
Alex Nedeljkovic is imploding in the second half of the year.
At one point, we all thought the Red Wings swindled the Canes but Ned has been disastrous lately. https://t.co/AqLId7TgMB
— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) March 11, 2022
In soccer, they call that an own goal.
I know that pain. Once, during a game, I did the same thing on a shot that also originated from the netural zone, swatting it into my net.
Of course, the difference being that I was 10 years old at the time.
This latest faux pas by Detroit’s #1 netminder is serving as an exclamation point of what’s been a dismal 2+ months for Nedeljkovic. On Dec. 1, he stood 7-3-3 with a .923 save percentage and 2.58 goals-against average.
Nedeljkovic Fighting The Puck
Since that time, entering play Thursday, Nedeljkovic is showing an 8-14-2 mark with an .888 save percentage and 3.55 GAA.
In goalie parlance, Nedeljkovic is fighting the puck. From personal experience, the fact of the matter is that when a netminder fights the puck, it’s always a losing battle.
Nedeljkovic exhibits all the signs of a struggling netminder. He being over-aggressive between the pipes, trying to do too much. He’s stiff and pucks are bounding off his like his gear is made of plywood.
Legendary Hall of Fame goalie Johnny Bower once explained to me that when a goalie is on his game, the puck just hits them. It sticks to them like their pads were equipped with Velcro. When a goalie is off his game, when confidence turns elusive, the puck simply finds ways to miss them.
Also an ex-puckstopper, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill understands succinctly what happens when a goaltender loses that vital component of confidence.
“There’s gonna be ups and downs and we gotta be able to handle that,” Blashill said. “When you don’t have confidence, you handle it less than when you do have confidence. But there’s no magic to it. You just gotta be mentally tough, bear down and find a way to a better tomorrow.”
Tuesday marked the 18th time in his last 27 appearances that Nedeljkovic has allowed three or more goals.