Colorado Avalanche: Are they Over-Relying on Varlamov?

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20: (L-R) Patrik Nemeth
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20: (L-R) Patrik Nemeth /

The Colorado Avalanche need to offer their goalie, Semyon Varlamov, more support if they want to keep winning games.

To answer the question in the headline, yes, the Colorado Avalanche are over-relying on goalie Semyon Varlamov. That is nothing new.

In the last three games, Varlamov has faced an average of 38 shots per game. Only one of those games saw fewer than 30 shots (27, at home against the Nashville Predators). Two of those games saw Varlamov face over 40 shots — 45 shots both times. One was last night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Letting Semyon Varlamov face that many shots is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s ridiculous to let your goalie get shellacked every game by 30, 40 or more shots. You have to add to that all the shot attempts, and that’s a goalie that’s having to do a lot of gymnastics for a full 60 minutes.

On the other hand, Varlamov has often said he fares better when he faces a lot of shots. It keeps him in the game. That’s certainly supported in the last five games. His only regulation loss was against Nashville and their 27 shots.

What’s concerning is Varlamov’s age and health. At 29, he’s hardly an old man. And he’s an elite professional athlete — obviously he’s in peak health.

In hockey terms, 29 is entering veteran status. It’s tough to maintain that kind of production. And we all know Semyon has his groin problems.

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The other concerning aspect is the backup goalie situation. Varlamov’s regular backup, Jonathan Bernier, is in the concussion protocol. His backup backup, Andrew Hammond, is also in the concussion protocol. So, right now the only other Avalanche goalie is Spencer Martin, who has all of 3 NHL games to his name and a 0-2-1 record. And those games didn’t even come this season.

And the Colorado Avalanche are in the midst of a playoff push. Right now they’re in the first wild card berth, but every single game counts for so much. That’s a tough situation to throw a young, untried goalie into.

So, as far as goalies go, the Avs have no choice but to keep starting Varlamov until either Bernier or Hammond return. Bernier participated in morning skate yesterday with what’s thought to be a white concussion mask on. However, he’s now had two concussions in the span of a month.

What needs to happen, then, is the Avalanche need to tighten up their defense in front of Varlamov. That’s all well and good for Semyon to play better when he’s highly involved in the game. Colorado’s not a machine-like team yet, so he’s still going to see a lot of action.

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I’d really like to see the Colorado Avalanche working more on the backcheck. Because we can’t afford to see Varlamov go down with another injury. And if the thought of Spencer Martin starting a game scares you, imagine him having to go in for a Varly that’s suddenly run cold.