Colorado Avalanche Need Better Play from Semyon Varlamov

Colorado Avalanche v Tampa Bay Lightning
Colorado Avalanche v Tampa Bay Lightning /

As the Colorado Avalanche teeter around the .500 mark, it may be their goaltending that is most responsible for the lack of a better record.

As we near the Christmas break of the 2017-18 season, the Colorado Avalanche have been far more competitive than they were last year. They have been close in all but a handful of games.

They have been able to score at a far greater rate than throughout last season. However, as encouraging as this team has been, it could be even better, if the goaltending was better.

In order for the Avalanche to get better goaltending, they need Semyon Varlamov to elevate his game. The team defense is unlikely to vastly improve as the season draws on, so it will fall on the goalie to play better, himself.

It would be nice if Jonathan Bernier played better as well, but Colorado’s team success is far more tied to the play of Varly. And he’s done it before.

Semyon Varlamov

So far this season, Varly has been quite average. He has a .906 save %, and 3.08 GAA. These stats are good enough to keep a team in games, but not good enough to steal very many. For the Avalanche to go on a long winning streak, which they need to do, if they want to contend for a playoff spot, they will need Varly to steal games for them.

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To put Varly’s season in perspective, he is currently posting some of the worst stats of his career. His stats are better than they were last year, where Varlamov was playing through a debilitating injury. However, if last year is written off as an exception, Varly’s stats have gotten consistently worse since his career year in 2013-14.

It is fair to ask the question; have we seen the best of Semyon Varlamov? Is Varly capable of dropping his GAA by half a goal? Can he raise his save % from .906 to .916? If he can, the Avalanche may be able to get a playoff push out of this season. If not, they will likely remain around the .500 mark, and fall out of contention by the trade deadline. They may also need to explore a goalie upgrade in the near future.

Colorado Avalanche Defense

A brief note about the Colorado Avalanche defense as it relates to goaltending. It is easy to point toward the young, inexperienced defense core of the Avalanche as a primary reason why the team’s goaltending has been average this year. I would argue that it is flawed argument. One only needs to look at the dream 2013-14 season for comparison.

Both teams had Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. It is fair to say that both players are more defensively responsible now than they were in 2013-14, especially Erik Johnson. Let’s look at the rest of the defense cores.

This year, the Avs have played 10 total defensemen. In order of games played, they are: EJ, Barrie, Mark Barberio, Nikita Zadorov, Anton Lindholm, Patrik Nemeth, Sam Girard, Chris Bigras, Andrei Mironov, and Duncan Siemens. While none of those names jump out as being incredible at this point in their careers, lets look at the 2013-14 defense core.

In 2013-14, the Avs played 8 defensemen at least 3 games. In order of GP, they were: EJ, Andre Benoit, Jan Hejda, Nate Guenin, Barrie, Nick Holden, Cory Sarich, and Ryan Wilson. Jan Hejda was on their top pair. I would argue that in light of EJ and Barrie getting better the past few years, this year’s defense core is better than Colorado’s 2013-14 squad.

Next: Should Colorado Avalanche Explore a Jonathan Bernier Trade?

The 2013-14 Avalanche finished in first place in the Central Division, with 112 points. The Avalanche are currently on pace to finish this season with 82 points. Semyon Varlamov faced more shots on a nightly basis during the 2013-14 season than this year. He will need to improve his play, if the Avalanche are going to get anywhere near the postseason this year.