Colorado Avalanche Should Emulate Playoff Teams’ Goalie Choices


The Colorado Avalanche have historically be a one goalie team, usually handing the reigns to the starting job over completely. However, many of the teams in the playoffs have realized the benefits of a platoon.

We discussed goaltending a lot on this site last season as Semyon Varlamov struggled, Calvin Pickard continues to look like a viable option for the future, and Reto Berra started the year on fire before getting hurt and waived.

All in all Varlamov’ stellar 2013-2014 is looking increasingly like an anomaly as he appears to be settling down into his “true” numbers as a good, but unspectacular goaltender in the NHL.

While GM Joe Sakic is probably regretting that $5.9 million dollar cap hit, at the end of the day there are so many teams struggling to find even one decent goaltender that having a good one is a real asset.

But unfortunately the Colorado Avalanche continued to allow Varly to play while he struggled this year, losing many games that one of the other goaltenders could have won. In fact, of the Avalanche goalies Varlamov had the lowest save percentage at .914 while both Berra and Pickard finished the year with solid .922’s.

The Rise Of The Platoon

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The Avalanche may still be a one goalie team, but more teams every year are embracing the platoon. In fact, many playoff teams this year went in to the season with the express idea of having two starters.

The St. Louis Blues’ Brian Elliot and Jake Allen split games almost down the middle, as did the Dallas Star’s goaltenders. The San Jose Sharks were hoping to have a platoon between Martin Jones and James Reimer before Jones stole the show. The Anaheim Ducks went young with John Gibson and Frederik Anderson.

That’s 4 of the 8 Western Conference playoff teams that chose to enter the year with two “starting” goalies. Some went cheap and young, taking on a fair amount of risk. Other teams, like the Stars, paid $10 million to their two goaltenders but didn’t see amazing results.

But in addition to teams planning on using platoons, many coaches are now embracing the idea of going with the hot hand. Off the top of my head, the easiest regular season example is Andrew Hammond in Ottawa last year, where Hammond started his career by winning 20 of 24 games to end the season. He did this with an astounding .941 save percentage.

Many people were perplexed at the decision to let Hammond continue to start. He had never played in the NHL before the season, and the Senators had ex-Avalanche Craig Andersonwho had just come off of an astounding year. Yet Hammond single-handedly carried the Senators into the playoffs.

Currently, we have Matt Murray in Pittsburgh who out-dueled likely Vezina winner Braden Holtby in the second round. And even though Marc-Andre Fleury, a franchise goaltender with tons of experience,  is healthy again, he stayed on the bench while the Penguins ride out Murray’s hot streak.

And this has been the trend among a lot of the teams this year — play a goalie while he’s hot, and when he struggles switch to the other guy.

Next: Varlamov Player Grade

The Colorado Avalanche Goaltending Situation

I realize Patrick Roy was an ultra competitive goalie who would have even hated the idea of having to share his net. But unfortunately Varlamov hasn’t proven to be as consistent as Roy was, and it’s time for Patrick to coach for the team he has, not the team he wants.

In the end blame falls a little bit of everywhere for the goaltending this year. That’s not to say it was horrible, but it’s certainly not what the Colorado Avalanche should expect with talented players. Obviously the Avs defense isn’t doing the goalies any favors, but that’s part of playing goalie.

This year Roy tried to ride out Varlamov’s struggles, and it probably costs the Colorado Avalanche a couple games. I get the idea — you get Varly back into his 2014 form and he’ll steal more games then he lost on the path there. But the Colorado Avalanche need to step back and evaluate who’s going to give them the best chance to win every night, because other teams are no longer playing struggling goaltenders just to play them.