The first two months of the season were not kind to the Colorado Avalanche and No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov.
This month, though? Different story.
The Avs won for the sixth time eight games on Tuesday night — a 3-0 victory in Chicago — which is the same amount of games they won in all of November.
Considering we’re barely halfway through December, that’s pretty good — and the biggest reason for the club’s success has been Varlamov.
“I think he’s been our best player, no doubt. I think we all know that,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said following last night’s victory. “We all knew how good Varly could be and how important he is for this hockey club.”
Varlamov’s save percentage was an ugly .889 in October. In November, an even uglier .885.
Talk about a turnaround.
Colorado, known its lacklustre possession metrics and shot totals, hasn’t started slamming the door shut — the Avs have given up nearly 33 shots per night in December. Varlamov, though, has stopped 189 of 196 pucks faced for an eye-popping .964 save percentage, stoning the likes of the New York Rangers (the NHL’s sixth highest-scoring team), Minnesota (ninth) and Chicago (12th) in the process.
“He stole one for us in St. Louis the other night,” Landeskog noted. “Tonight [versus ‘Hawks], he was overall solid. He made the big saves when we needed them.”
Performances of this nature are what head coach Patrick Roy envisioned — and expected — when he called out Varlamov in late November.
We contrasted Roy’s approach with that of Carolina’s Bill Peters, who refused to publicly call out Cam Ward and Eddie Lack for their lacklustre efforts this year. At the time, there was no telling how Roy’s critiques of Varlamov would play out; the coach was desperate for results (just 10-14-1) and, as such, desperate to do whatever he could to snap Varlamov out of his funk.
For now, Roy’s strategy seems to have worked.