It's the best time of year!
For Semyon Varlamov, there were a lot of question marks and doubters after the trade from Washington to Colorado. Though it's only been two games, Varlamov is showing his true potential with his new club.
Varlamov's off-season trade was a strategic one for both Washington and Colorado. Washington got valuable picks in the 2012 draft (including a first-round pick), which is expected to be a particularly strong one in terms of the talent of prospects. Colorado got a No. 1 goaltender after Craig Anderson was sent to Ottawa.
It was a bit of an awkward situation with Washington this summer, as Varlamov and his agent said that his remaining in Washington was contingent on him being named No. 1 goaltender. With Michal Neuvirth coming off a strong season and Varlamov missing much of the season with injuries, the Capitals could not guarantee that he would start the majority of the games.
Varlamov opted to walk, nearly heading to the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, as Washington GM George McPhee confirmed (Lokomotiv still held Varlamov's KHL rights). But thankfully, a trade with Colorado came together in July. Varlamov went back to Russia just weeks before the season began to attend the funerals of the players of Lokomotiv, a club with which he played before coming to the NHL, and to which he was destined to go if the deal with Colorado had not gone through this summer.
Despite the tragedies of the off-season, Varlamov returned to Colorado with renewed focus has that immediately translated to the start of the NHL season. If his performance in the first two games of the season is any indication, he's fitting in quite comfortably with the Avalanche.
Thus far, his stats are beyond impressive: a .971 save percentage and 1.00 GAA. That includes a 1-0 shutout against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, the fifth shutout of Varlamov's career.
Though his first game was a 3-0 loss against Detroit, Varlamov was impressive, earning the third star of the game while stopping 36 shots in the loss. "We just need to forget about this game and keep going," Varlamov said post-game. "It was just the first game of the season."
Varlamov had apparently forgotten about it completely by Monday as he made 30 saves and blanked the Bruins 1-0. Varlamov admitted that he used his knowledge of TD Garden's ice to his advantage in the win. "(The boards) are more bouncy and I know how they react and whenever they shoot the puck, it just comes back out in front of the goal, so I knew how to deal with that," Varlamov said.
Milan Hejduk, who scored the only goal in the contest, had glowing words for his new goaltender. "How he played tonight, it was terrific," Hejduk said. "It's giving us so much confidence. We can go on the offense and create something there."
As for coach Joe Sacco, he's pleased with what he sees in Varlamov. "We're getting what we expected of him," Sacco said. "He looks big in net and he's playing big."
It looks as though Varlamov is getting exactly what he wanted in Colorado: the starting gig between the pipes. He's slated to make his third straight start on Wednesday in Columbus.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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