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Red Wings’ McCollum Notches Bittersweet First Win

Tom McCollum

Photo by Mark Newman/Grand Rapids Griffins

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.

Red Wings’ Shootout Troubles: Who’s to Blame?

This season has not been the Red Wings’ best when it comes to shootouts. Long gone are the days when Pavel Datsyuk could dangle Tomas Vokoun with his patented move resulting in Vokoun’s jock strap landing in Section 415. Detroit is 0-3 in shootouts so far in the 2014-15 season and need to improve. Those extra standings points can go a long way at the end of the season.

 

The Suspects

The Tendys

The Shooters

The Coaches

 

Jim-meh

As a goalie, it is easier for me to find blame in the goaltenders for goals allowed. Mike Babcock summed it up perfectly during the 2008 playoffs when pucks kept finding their way past Dominik Hasek in the first round against Nashville, “Pucks went in the net.” It doesn’t matter who made a bad play that resulted in a goal, the puck went in, and it’s the goalie’s duty to prevent that.

Unfortunately, there is a move, that when correctly executed, beats Jimmy Howard. A couple actually, and they are both similar plays. David Krejci and Ryan Callahan (both right-handed) deked blocker and pulled back to tuck in the glove side. Howard was nowhere near the puck. Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis (both left-handed) sniped blocker on a quick backhand-to-forehand-shoot move. It moves the angle before the goalie can get there. As for Reilly Smith‘s snipe, the last of the five Howard has allowed, his five hole was wide open. This is because Jim leans forward and angles his blade at a 45 degree angle along the ice. Tuukka Rask and Ben Bishop have a crouched, but upright stance that let’s their stick blade run perpendicular to the ice.

By the way, Howard’s save percentage in shootouts is a paltry .286 this season (two saves on seven shots). To be fair, Lightning defenseman Matt Carle missed the net on one of Howard’s “saves”.

 

One and Done

Apparently Detroit’s scoring troubles don’t stop when regulation time does. Darren Helm, Tomas Tatar, and Andrej Nestrasil all had terrible attempts. Gustav Nyquist scored once, but tried the same exact move in his next attempt and was easily stopped by Ben Bishop. His goal is the only one the Red Wings have tallied in any shootout this season.

To their credit, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg both almost scored if it wasn’t for Michal Neuvirth’s dumb luck. Pav’s snipe hit the knob of Neuvy’s stick in a wide-open high blocker area. Z’s fake slapshot deke almost trickled through. If Zetterberg deked to the backhand instead, he would have had a wide open net.

 

The Brains of the Operation

Why Helm and Nestrasil? Seriously. Helm is a great hockey player, but finesse is not his thing. It often looks like he moves too fast for his brain to keep pace. How much studying is done to prepare players for shootouts? Is that the coaches’ or players’ responsibility to know the tendencies of their opponents? The coaches do pick the shooters, so hopefully they have some reasoning behind their selections.

 

The Verdict

Everyone.

Jimmy, don’t get sniped. Fake shot, deke blocker, pull back to glove side is 100% effective of embarrassing you this season.

Shooters, know your goalies.

Coaches, know your goalies too. Also, don’t let Helm or Nestrasil shoot again.