Colorado Avalanche: Goalie Woes Could Spell Doom

The Colorado Avalanche can’t find sustained success without a good goalie. Unfortunately, both goalies may be showing weakness.

The Colorado Avalanche need a stellar goalie in the same way that the Denver Broncos need a stellar quarterback. It’s been that was since John Elway’s tenure for the Broncos, and it’s been that was since Le Trade brought Patrick Roy to Colorado.

The teams’ identities and outright fate lie in the hands of their being strong at that one position. The Broncos didn’t have a great quarterback this season, and they played to a 5-11-0 record.

It looked for a while like the Avalanche might not have that problem. Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov started out strong. Through his first 10 starts he recorded a 7-3-0 record with a save percentage of .900. He’s had only five wins in his last 10 games, though, and none since he returned from his most recent groin injury.

Indeed, as Avs insider Adrian Dater pointed out, Varlamov looked slow in his start against the Winnipeg Jets — a loss. And he looked reactive all night against the St. Louis Blues. That loss went to Jonathan Bernier, though.

Speaking of Bernier, his track has been different from Varlamov’s. He’s had one more start than Varlamov and has a better record overall — 16-10-2 to 13-10-2. However, in his first 10 starts, he had only four wins. His brilliant record came during a nine-game winning streak that saw the Avs win 10 straight. Since the streak broke, though, Bernier has been 2-3-1.

Last night against St. Louis, both goalies looked bad. Varlamov looked reactive, and Bernier didn’t have a great night. The first goal of the game came on a rebound:

It’s tough to fault Bernier too much there, but rebounds are never a good thing. Anyway, Bernier got yanked after allowing three goals on 20 shots, which is tough. However, Varlamov was even worse — he allowed three goals on 11 shots.

I don’t know if coaches are ok with putting a goalie back in after he’s been pulled, and I don’t know that pulling Bernier after that third goal was the right call…  Scratch that. It was the wrong call. At the end of the night, Bernier had a .850 save percentage in 25:05 of play, while Varlamov had .727 in 34:20 of play.

Here’s where this gets bad, though. Colorado doesn’t make significant wins without a good goalie in net. It’s possible for a team to win with a mediocre goalie. It’s just not possible for the Avs.

The Colorado Avalanche have one of the best defenses they’ve had in a while. Their cornerstone is the Iron Man Condor, two-way defenseman Erik Johnson. They have two excellent puck-moving defensemen in Tyson Barrie and Samuel Girard. And they have a force of nature in Nikita Zadorov. Patrik Nemeth, Anton Lindholm, and Mark Barberio (when healthy) serve as support cast.

However, the Avalanche’s star scorer is out for at least three more games — and, knowing Colorado’s luck, it will be more.

That cast of defensemen, as we saw last night, is not enough to compensate if both Avalanche goalies suddenly get cold.

The Colorado Avalanche are supposed to start Semyon Varlamov tomorrow against the Carolina Hurricanes. Hopefully by then he will have worked off some of his rust. The Avs need at least one goalie to be a little warm.