Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov carried the team for much of the game against the Rangers, thus showing that he’s back to form.
The Colorado Avalanche went into their first game with a lot of questions in the balance. One of the big ones was how will goalie Semyon Varlamov bounce back after having season-ending surgery last year and missing eight months of hockey.
The answer is that he recorded a .949 save percentage by stopping 37 of the 39 shots he faced. We’re going to focus on that shots total in a minute, but for now — he stopped 37 shots. He stopped all even strength shots. Both New York Rangers goals came on the power play. (We’ll rant about that in a moment, too.)
Thanks most heavily to Varlamov’s play, the Colorado Avalanche beat the New York Rangers 4-2. Defenseman Erik Johnson — who played a team-leading 26:37 — said that Varlamov was “lights out” in how strongly he played. Johnson elaborated:
"“He’s yelling at us if he can’t see [the puck]. ‘Get out of my way. Move.’ He’s good like that. We need him talking to us.”"
Johnson went on to relate an incident in which he was trying to block a shot, and Varlamov stated, “I’ll take those — get out of my way.”
When asked about Varlamov’s play in the game, Jared Bednar laughed and stated, “That’s what we’re hoping he can be. We don’t want to get into a game where we’re relying on him like that every night. But we’re going to need him on some of those nights.”
Well, last night was one of those nights. He faced 39 shots.
We all know that Semyon Varlamov is Varly Varly when he’s on his game. In the past, he often did better when he faced a lot of shots.
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The man himself said of his performance that he felt “good” and “confident,” especially from some of his early saves. He added that the key to being successful was staying focused “all 60 minutes of the game.”
And he had to maintain his focus for all 60 minutes. And now we’re really going to focus on that shot total: 39.
Part of the problem was a last-minute decision by Bednar to bench Zadorov in favor of fellow Russian, the very wet-behind-the-ears Andrei Mironov. He did not have the greatest of NHL debuts, which really throws Bednar’s decision into a bad light.
There was also some sloppy play in the defensive zone by players who should know better. Matthew Nieto made a sloppy clearing attempt that led directly to one of the Rangers’ goals — a power play tally.
And that’s another issue. There were 28 penalties called in the game. That’s a stupid amount under any circumstances and shows that the officials aren’t heeding the NHL’s advice to tone it down. (This was not a hotly contested game — there was no reason to get so technical.) In any case, the Colorado Avalanche penalty kill unit… well, let’s just say it wasn’t as slick as you would hope for.
But let’s get back to the star of the evening, the man who won first star honors for his play. Here’s an example of how “lights out” he was:
After the Burgundy and White Game, Varlamov admitted to some rust:
"“It feels like everybody is flying on the ice right now. It takes time for me to feel adjusted to the game. I need to play a couple more games before the season starts.”"
He did, playing in three games. Like Bednar said, you don’t want to rely on Varly Varly like that every night, but it’s good to know the team can count on him.
Side note — Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene scored the first Colorado Avalanche goal of the 2017-18 season:
If you’re wondering why I’m emphasizing the Colorado Avalanche aspect, well, let’s just say there are a lot of fans and pundits who thought Duchene wouldn’t even start the season with the Avs — much less start off the season right for the Avs.