Semyon Varlamov shining in Colorado
It is easy to say that Colorado Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov has finally launched into the league as one of its better goaltenders. It may have taken awhile, but right now, Varlamov, 25, is showing that he can be one of the top masked men in the league.
While with the Washington Capitals for the better part of three seasons, Varlamov's potential only scratched the service. This was due to the limited number of games he played because of various injuries or the fact that we was usually competing for playing time with other netminders in the organization.
Varlamov played just 59 games with the Capitals and in those 59 games, showed that he could win games (30 victories) and put up respectable numbers. In those three years in Washington, "Varly" put up goals against averages of 2.37, 2.55, and 2.23 while also putting up solid save percentages of .918, .909, and .924.
The Russian netminder also showed that he could play well in the playoffs. In 2008-09, he led the Capitals to within one win of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals and posted a 7-6 record with a 2.53 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and two shutouts.
Despite showing the Capitals that he had a lot of potential to be the team's goaltender of the future, the organization felt differently. After the 2010-11 season, the Capitals went ahead and traded Varlamov to the Avalanche and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since coming to Colorado, Varlamov has clearly arrived in the league as a top notch starting netminder. He began to prove that in his first season with the team in which he went 26-24-3 with a 2.59 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and four shutouts in 53 games, the most games he played in one season.
While he did take a step back last year in the shortened season, he has bounced back in a big way in this NHL campaign and has been one of the league's best goaltenders. One reason why this has happened is because of the amount of confidence new team head coach Patrick Roy has in him.
As of this writing, Varlamov has started 59 games this season. Roy has not been hesitant to use Varlamov in back-to-back situations and has also not been afraid to play him for long stretches before giving the team's back-up goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a chance to get between the pipes.
In turn, Varlamov has rewarded Roy with incredibly strong play between the pipes. He has 38 wins (first in the league), a 2.48 goals against average, and one shutout and his consistent play between the pipes helped get the Avalanche back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Another reason why Varlamov has been successful this season is because of his strong positional play. Instead of being overly aggressive and relying on his athletic ability all of the time, Varlamov has learned to be in position for not only the first shot, but second and third shots as well.
Lastly, Varlamov has been good this season because all he needed was for a team to show some faith in him. The franchise showed him that and more when they signed him to a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension back in late January.
With confidence, faith from the team and their coach, and better positional and consistent play between the pipes, Varlamov could be on his way to being considered an elite netminder in this league for years to come.