Though Tom McCollum‘s entrance to the game against his hometown Buffalo Sabres came at a 3-0 disadvantage, the Red Wing’s fourth string goalie got his first NHL win on Sunday night.
Many anticipated last night’s game to be a “trap game” following a dominating performance against a high-powered Nashville Predators team on Saturday night. The lowly Buffalo Sabres did not seem to pose a threat to the Red Wings on paper. That’s why games are played though.
After allowing three goals on his first seven shots, Petr Mrazek was given the hook in favor of McCollum. No one was playing well at this point, so the move to yank Mrazek was more of a coaching strategy, rather than a nod to Mrazek’s poor play. The Red Wings responded with five unanswered goals en route to a 6-4 victory.
McCollum was not tested very much after entering the game. He only faced eight shots and allowed one goal on a Tyler Ennis turnaround shot. For the former 2008 first round draft pick, his first NHL win could not come soon enough and against a better team, though better would not be used to describe the talent of the team.
Tom McCollum grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo and rooted for the Sabres growing up. He watched Dominik Hasek redefine “dominance” while in Buffalo and then another great tender in Ryan Miller for a brief time until he was drafted in 2008. It was fitting that McCollum’s first NHL win came against the team he grew up cheering for. It was also fitting the way that the win was achieved.
Redemption at the Joe
Last night’s victory serves as a solid metaphor for McCollum’s career after he was drafted by Detroit. It started out a flaming pile of garbage, though unlike his career, McCollum was not in net for the down period. After a decent enough end to the first period, things started to pick up and order was restored. The Red Wings fought back and evened the game, like how Tom fought to preserve his standing with the Grand Rapids Griffins after Petr Mrazek jumped him in the depth chart and the Red Wings signed Jared Coreau out of Northern Michigan for organizational depth.
The next act was to assert dominance and come out on top. McCollum mirrored that in Grand Rapids following the team’s Calder Cup championship in 2013. Though he was not always the starting goalie, McCollum have posted solid numbers in a season and a half since. After Mrazek was promoted to the Red Wings following Jonas Gustavsson‘s shoulder injury, Tom McCollum took over as the starter in Grand Rapids and did not falter. He posted ten wins and a 2.33 goals against average in the AHL before joining the big league team.
Goaltenders have always been known to battle. Tom McCollum certainly did last night to keep pace with his career revitalization. It remains to be seen when and where McCollum will have a more permanent NHL job, but he can only keep battling until then to prove he belongs.