Red Wings' Pickard gets rewarded for dedication with victory in first start

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — NHL teams are carrying three goalies this season because of the pandemic, and it's not an easy position.

You rarely play, you do practice a lot, and staying sharp isn't easy.

Calvin Pickard has been in that role most of this season for the Red Wings, and Saturday he was rewarded for his effort.

Pickard stopped 21 shots while helping the Wings stop a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Columbus.

Watching the Wings on the ice afterward, you couldn't tell who was happier — Pickard (whose last NHL victory was in 2018 as a Philadelphia Flyer) or his teammates.

"Our guys really like him," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

Pickard, 28, played in Austria (Vienna Capitals) in the autumn as the NHL continued to be shelved by the pandemic.

Pickard returned to the Wings in January and has spent the majority of the season on the taxi squad. Pickard had one start, March 17, in Grand Rapids and relieved Thomas Greiss in the first period Thursday in Nashville.

That's been it for game action until Saturday's start.

"Just be ready," Pickard said of his mindset. "I've played games in this league, it's been few and far between the last few years, but I know what I'm capable of and I know I can step in and give these guys a good start.

"I'm thankful our team came out flying today and made it a lot easier for me."

Pickard didn't want to overthink Saturday, while getting his first start.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal (18) fist bumps goaltender Calvin Pickard (31) after the third period.

"Just go in there and do your thing and don't try to think too much and let the chips fall where they may," Pickard said. "Our first period (the Wings outshot Columbus (16-5) I got a few shots but I got my feet under me."

It's been a different type of season for Pickard, but he's relishing the opportunity he has.

"It's never easy, obviously you're a competitor and you want to play," Pickard said. "Coming into the season every team is carrying three goalies. I was slated to be in that role, and it's a good group to be around. There are always opportunities throughout the year when the third guy is going to play, so you have to be ready for it.

"It's never easy not playing but you stay as sharp as possible."

Blashill felt Pickard going to Europe to play was a huge benefit, and Pickard has handled the role as well as could be expected.

"He went over to Europe and that allowed him to get games in," Blashill said. "That was a great decision by him. He had to leave his family and go over and play and that's a commitment. I'm glad he was able to get a game in Grand Rapids.

"The inner drive and work ethic he showed during these last couple of months when he hasn't played, to make sure he's getting the extra work, 45-minute sessions on top of the practice that might take place, there are days he's been on the ice upward of three hours.

"That's the level of commitment you have to have. You have to stay as sharp as you can and a lot of times it doesn't look like you're going to get the opportunity and some guys don't stay as sharp. They get down. 

"He didn't do that, made sure he was ready, and did a good job."

Ice chips

Adam Erne opened the Wings' scoring Saturday, his sixth goal, and has now tripled his goal total from the 2019-20 season, while doubling his point total (10 points) from last season in only 27 games.

... Robby Fabbri became the first Red Wing to reach double-digit goals (10), while continuing to lead Detroit in goals-per-game (0.38) and points-per-game (0.65). Fabbri also notched his fourth winning goal in the team’s last eight games and has a team-best eight winning goals since joining the team in November 2019.

... The goals by Erne and Fabbri were scored 29 seconds apart, marking the fastest consecutive goals this season by the Wings. 

Blue Jackets at Red Wings

Faceoff: 3 p.m. Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Red Wings (11-20-4) and Blue Jackets (13-14-8) conclude a back-to-back series at LCA. … The Wings are 2-2-0 against Columbus this season, with three games later this season, all in Columbus.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan