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Off to a 2-2-0 Start



Semyon Varla-Who?


Last season the Colorado Avalanche saw nothing go right for them and that included the luck of their goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The then 26-year-old, Russian, goalie found himself of the ice and away from his team three different times last season due to injury. He also showed sub-par numbers when he was in net, now some of that could be linked to the entire team’s average of six roster players hurt per game, but you cannot blame just that.


Varlmov earned a 28-20-8 record, still winning but not expected after his 41-14-6 performance the season before. The plus side, Semyon posted 5 shut-outs which was a career high. Along-side his 28-win record, Varly showed a 2.56 GAA which was not far off from his 2.41 the previous season.
Now it is only three games into the season for Colorado, but Semyon Varlamov is not looking like the goaltender he did in 2013-14. He is very similar to the goaltender Avalanche fans saw start the season last year. In three games, Semyon is 1-2-0 and sporting a 5.06 GAA along with 13 allowed goals on 82 shots. In his 2014-15 season, Varly was 0-2-1 in those first three games allowing 10 goals however he faces 111 shots.


In game one, the Avalanche took on their biggest division rivals in the Minnesota Wild. After exploding to a 4-1 lead after two periods, Colorado was smashing the Wild in every category. They were out-hitting them at the end of two periods 23-8, out shot-blocking them 25-6, winning face-offs and of course the score. Come the third period Colorado forgot who they were or what they were doing and lost the game 5-4 as Minnesota just demolished the third period. Being at the game 7 in 2013-14 and then this home opener, it certainly felt similar the way the fans went from a 10 to a 0 on the excitement scale – déjà vu…. Minnesota found Varly’s weak spot up high over the gloves once again allowing 4 goals on just 10 shots.


Game two, Colorado started the game similar to the way they ended game one. This time though, the Dallas Stars would find themselves up 3-1 mid-way through the second period. I could not give you the exact number shot goal 3 was, but at the end of two periods, Varlamov gave up three goals on 23 shots which was building for a strong third period to follow. Varly would make some key saves and give the team a little boost. A power-play goal by Erik Johnson would begin the rally and see Colorado win 6-3.
Game three... The Boston Bruins came into town 0-3 and playing with their back-up goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. This game was just sad, from the jump Colorado could not get their heads in the game. Varlamov would allow 5 goals in two periods on just 19 shots, Reto Berra would come in relief and stop 5 of 5 shots. The number one power-play in the NHL would strike again and get Colorado on the board, but they would fall 6-2.


Stemming from the third period of game one, Semyon Varlamov had faced 62 shots and allowed 12 shots. Not very well for a guy who is capable of a 40+ win season. Maybe watching his back-up in Reto Berra post a 3-0 35 save shut out against the Anaheim Ducks will get Varlamov back on track. He knows he will need to compete and prove he can stay the number 1 goaltender in Colorado. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have faith in the 27-year-old goalie, but that faith only goes so deep as no player on the Avalanche roster is safe from being traded… Just look at Ryan O’Reilly.


Speaking of Ryan O’Reilly… Do you remember when Nathan MacKinnon just could not get things going after Paul Stastny up and left? Well this past summer as we all know, Ryan was traded to the Buffalo Sabers, this trade brought over a few key parts but I will not get into that now. The main thing here is what it seemed to leave behind.


18-year-old rookie Matt Duchene, drafted #3 overall by Colorado in 2009 name found a close friend when the Avalanche selected Ryan O’Reilly #33 overall in the same draft. Also at 18-years of age, O’Reilly looked like a pro off the hop and made the club with Duchene.


The two went back and forth from centre to wing and line to line, many times landing together on any given night for line combinations or even the power play. Any ways, back to my point here.


The Colorado Avalanche have played four games, in those four games, Matt Duchene has a whole three shots on goal and is a -4. Even though -3 came on opening night where he epically failed at his own blue where he lost the puck and Minnesota went on to tie the game.


I will not say the loss of Ryan O’Reilly is strictly to blame for the kids lack of play-making ability this season, but I am sure it is not helping. In four games last season, Duchene had 1 goal 1 assist and +/- 0, the 2013-14 season 2 goals 2 assists +2, and of course the 2012-13 2 goals 2 assists +4… He is not an explosive 10 points in the first four or anything, but he usually is producing with even an assist or a goal by now. The only other time he started this slow, he was an 18-year-old rookie fresh out of the crib, he posted 1 assist and a -3 that 2009-10 season.


What has to give here in order for the Colorado Avalanche to be successful for the remainder of the season starts with these two guys. Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog have come out of fire, between the two of them they have 6 goals and 6 helpers. Reto Berra has stopped 40 of 40 shots in relief and his first start and the defense… well up until their 3-0 shut-out over Anaheim was a little shaky but seems to be finding their legs.


New comers Francois Beauchemin and Nikita Zadorov are fitting in quite well. Beauchemin jumped out with 5 points in his first two games but was a -3 versus the Boston Bruins. The 20-year-old kid Zadorov started off a little soft on defense as a -1 in the first two and a -2 against Boston (who wasn’t a – in that game got Colorado) he has one helper on the back end and is looking to be more of a threat for the blue line in Denver.


With the back –end coming together, Tyson Barrie will speak with the player safety association this week. Barrie threw a questionable hit against Anaheim Duck defensemen Simon Despres. The hit was not penalized in the game but Despres was injured. Barrie is looking at a suspension for charging/interference.


Once these three things form a solid, Colorado will be a team to beat in the Western Conference once again. At 2-2-0, Avalanche sit in 6th place in their division… which mind you is outstanding! The five teams above them combine for a 17-4-1 record and shockingly that does not include the Chicago Blackhawks who sit 7th at 2-3-0. Remember though, we are JUST starting the season.


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