Overview: A few years back, the Avalanche took a risk in an effort to find their franchise goaltender. They dealt draft picks (a first and second-round pick, to be exact) and found their guy: then 23-year-old Semyon Varlamov.
The young Russian had shown great potential in a platoon effort with the Washington Capitals; enough that the Avalanche wanted to make him their future in the crease. He’s had his ups and downs since then, but it’s clear he is the present and future for Colorado.
Things took a turn this year with the addition of new head coach Patrick Roy, arguably the greatest goalie to ever play, and vaunted goalie coach Francois Allaire joining him. The latter has a history, especially with backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere, of making his pupils better goaltenders. It certainly looked like Varlamov would be set up for success this season.
Stats: 7 GP, 6-0-0, 1.62 GAA, .949 sv%, 2 SO
It certainly seems as though the arrivals of Roy and Allaire have sparked something in the 35-year-old backup. Giguere had his best stretch as a professional when Allaire was in his corner and with his goalie coach back, he’s been a revelation as the backup for the Avalanche this season.
He’s obviously not built for the starting role anymore, but no one expects that. But getting this kind of performance out of your backup is more than reassuring. If you know that your goaltending will give you a chance to win each and every time you hit the ice, that’s huge. And the Avalanche have that opportunity with Giguere on the ice in his limited opportunities. Grade: A+
Stats: 19 GP, 13-6-0, 2.13 GAA, .933 sv%, 1 SO
Certainly, the coaching duo has had a hand in the breakout season the 25-year-old netminder is experiencing as well, but Varlamov has been displaying his talents with aplomb this season. His natural athleticism is apparent as he flawlessly moves from post to post and makes saves that most shouldn’t and don’t.
He’s come on again after slumping briefly in the midst of his off-ice issues, but that slump is understandable. Varlamov has had very few bad starts this season and has more than given his team the opportunity to win every time he puts on the pads. Grade: A-
Certainly, part of the success the Avalanche is experiencing – a huge part – is due to the goaltending. Varlamov and Giguere have both played exceptionally well so far and with the young Varly taking the bulk of the load, there’s no reason to think Giguere can’t keep up a strong performance (maybe not a .949 save percentage) over 20-25 starts.
A tip of the cap to all involved and, hopefully, the goaltending can lead the Avalanche on a surprise run if/when they make the postseason.
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