Devils prospect Nico Daws struggled in the Comets game two overtime loss to the Americans, setting the stage for a huge game three on Sunday.
To blame this loss entirely on Daws would be unfair and overly simplistic. Utica once again started slow, allowing Rochester to control much of the play for the majority of the first period. The same can be said about the final five minutes of regulation where Rochester kept the puck in the Utica zone and put a lot of pressure on Daws. However, of the four goals Rochester scored, three of them should have been stopped by a goalie that has NHL experience and aspirations to be a regular NHL goalie in the somewhat near future.
Just 20 seconds into the game and Daws allows a pretty soft goal. Mark Jankowski beat Daws on the short side after picking up the puck in the corner as a result of a misplay by Tyler Wotherspoon. Due to the traffic in front, the far side of the net wasn’t a viable option for Jankowski to shoot, but Daws got too far from the post and allowed the puck to sneak in between his body and the post. Daws had time to set himself to the shooter and takeaway his shooting angle but he failed to do so and as result Utica fell behind after just 20 seconds and one shot on goal allowed. Sure the defense could have been better there by not allowing Jankowksi to come away with the puck but you need a save from your goalie to start the game.
Just over 10 minutes into the period and JJ Peterka comes racing down the right side covered by Michael Vukojevic and slips the puck through Daws to extend the Rochester lead. This was defended well by Vukojevic as he kept Peterka to the outside and didn’t give him much time or space to pick a spot and get his best shot off. Peterka just threw the puck on net and Dawlls allowed it to slip through his body and into the net. Once again, this is a situation where you need a stop from your goalie and it is more than fair to expect it from one of the AHL’s best goalies this season. A weak shot from a bad angle can’t go in when your team is struggling to mount any offensive pressure against the opposition. The Comets were down 2-0 just over half way into the first and both goals could have been reasonably been stopped by one of the AHL’s best goalies.
The overtime winner for Rochester would have been tough save, but again this goalie was dominant in the AHL this year and showed some good play against NHL competition at times this season. JJ Peterka took a loose puck just below the left face off dot and fired it past Daws for the OT winner and his third goal of the game. Peterka had more time and space to get off a better shot this time than he did on his first goal, but even still, Daws stayed back in his crease and didn’t do much to cut down the shooting angle of Peterka. Not all saves will be easy and to truly be considered a good AHL goalie and legit NHL prospect, Daws needs to make some difficult saves in some critical spots.
This is not to say that Daws had a totally awful game and allowed any tough shot he faced to get by him. He did stop three breakways throughout the game to help push the game into overtime. However, these three soft goals obviously hurt Utica and show some of the flaws we saw from Daws in his NHL games this season. This is not to say we should be giving up on Daws as a prospect, but to show that it is still too early to consider him a viable NHL option, even as a backup, for next season. He clearly needs more seasoning in the AHL, which is fine seeing as he is only 21 years old. I expect that Daws will get the start for game three this afternoon, but if his play does not improve I would not be surprised to see head coach Kevin Dineen start Akira Schmid in game four.
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