Photo credit: Scott Paulus
“I realize I’m here for a reason, I realize I’m here to get better, and I’m here to get myself back to the Chet Pickard that the Nashville Predators selected in the first-round, because they took a gamble on me picking me high, and I don’t want to disappoint. That’s not what I’m going to do. I want to be the Chet Pickard I know I can be, but it’s not about me looking at playing in the NHL right now. It’s about day-by-day, getting better, getting back to the way I can be, and it’s going to be a process, and I’m prepared and I’m committed to get back there.”
That was Chet Pickard, in an interview with the Tennessean, published in the middle of November. And in his next start, he broke that long losing streak that had plagued him going back to last season.
And until further notice, this is his show in Cincinnati.
The Cyclones are developmental affiliates for the Predators and Florida Panthers. And Jacob Markstrom, one of the goaltenders for the Rochester Americans, recently suffered a knee injury, prompting the recall of Chet’s co-tender in Cincy — leaving Chet as the bona fide #1 goalie in town.
Now, it was announced yesterday that Markstrom’s injury is not going to require surgery. Team doctors in Florida concluded that it’s a minor knee sprain, and he’s being sent back to Rochester to rehab. The last recovery timetable I read had a range of 2-3 weeks.
That kind of changes where I wanted to go with this story a bit. If this was going to be a longer term injury for Markstrom, this had the potential to be a career defining moment for Chet. This would be his chance to possibly carry his team to the playoffs on his back and make a statement. A chance to get his stock rising again.
Nevertheless, if he’s looking to get his career back on track, the next two to three weeks will be a golden opportunity for Chet to show that he CAN be the man.
This past weekend, he recorded two wins against the Florida Everblades, giving up just three goals on 46 shots over the two games. And according to Mike from the Cycwords blog, there has been obvious improvement — first and foremost, in Chet’s head.
“Early on it looked like he was ‘thinking’ his way through games, which led to breakdowns in technique and in turn, ‘soft’ goals. It just looked like he was doubting his game. He showed flashes of the potential that made him a 1st round pick, but they were inconsistent.
“Back on January 30th I think we saw what Chet was really capable of doing. It was a game against South Carolina and he got clipped in the head with a stick pretty hard early on. It must have jarred something because he started playing with a bit of swagger in that game en route to a 28 save shutout. Since then we’ve seen that same cocky swagger. He’s been chirping at the opposition and even holding his glove up in the face of the occasional shooter after a big glove save. Basically, wherever his head is, his game seems to follow suit.”
Since January 1st, he has a 7-6 record, and has given up two or less goals in seven of those games.
The Cyclones have ten games in the next three weeks, and Mike says that while some fans may be hitting the panic button over the goalie situation, his concern is more about the defense in front of Chet.
“There are some that feel that neither of them (Chet or Marc Cheverie) are capable of stopping a beach ball and yearn for the return of Jeremy (Smith), and there are some that think their struggles relate to the sometimes porous defense in front of them. I fall into the later category; even Kelly Cup Play Co-MVP’s Jeremy Smith and Robert Mayer would have been left with their heads spinning after seeing the numerous odd man rushes the team was giving up early on.
“Former head coach Chuck Weber had a saying for goalies: ‘Stop the shots you’re supposed to and a few of the ones you’re not, and we’ll win games.’ That phrase is starting to apply more and more to Chet.”
And not a moment too soon. We’ll be keeping an eye on his progress over the next few weeks, and I hope we’ll have some positive things to report.