We are into the Vs now in our comprehensive review of every player from the Avalanche’s most recent season, and so it’s time to grade Semyon Varlamov’s 2017-18 performance. Here are his detailed stats from our own proprietary analytics system, with a final grade at the end.

Overview

Up and down, healthy at times and hurt in others. That was the kind of season it was for the Russian veteran, who began the year as the starting goalie and finished it watching the playoffs in street clothes. Another set of injuries plagued Varlamov, the final of which – a knee injury suffered March 30 after being run into by Chicago’s Tomas Jurco with 6:35 left in a 5-0 Avs victory – ended his season.

Varly got off to a great start, stopping 37-of-39 shots in an opening night win at Madison Square Garden and following that up four days later with a shutout in Boston. He looked like the Varly of 2013-14, in which he finished as a finalist for the Vezina. The rest of October, however, was hit and miss. He continued to win some games, but lost a few too, including a disastrous 7-0 performance in Vegas in which he allowed all seven goals on just 21 shots. The following game, though? He made 57 saves – most in Avs regular-season history – in a win over Carolina. That’s the kind of year it was.

Starting in mid-December, Varlamov had one of his best stretches of the season. He posted a .900-or-better saves percentage in six of seven games, but on Jan. 2, against Winnipeg, he suffered a groin/hip injury. That would cost him the next month on the sidelines.

His play was kind of up-and-down again when he returned. By late February, though, he started to get hot again. He won some big games in places like Minnesota and St. Louis, helping the Avs leap into the top eight of the Western Conference. He got shelled in a March 22 home loss to the Kings, but returned to win a big game at home against Vegas, then was cruising to the shutout against Chicago when Jurco lost an edge and bowled into him. Season over. It’s too bad, because Varly obviously did a lot to make the Avs a playoff team. He just never got to participate.

Biggest Moment

This is a tough call. That 57-save win over the Hurricanes was one for the history books, and he was brilliant in those first two wins of the season in New York and Boston. But I’m going to go with a March 15 game in St. Louis in which Varly stopped 44-of-45 shots in a big win over the Blues. That was definitely one of the biggest wins of the season, a game in which the Avs really believed for the first time, I think, that they were going to make the playoffs.

What’s Next

Varlamov has one year left on his contract, at a $5.9 million cap hit. You know by now, probably, that I like it when guys are playing for that next deal. If I’m a fantasy player, I tend to pick those guys. I like that big incentive in front of them. If he can just stay healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t go out and have a great year. The knee injury has healed.

Final Grade

B

For the most part, Varlamov played well when he was healthy. He finished with a .920 saves percentage, and was good in those big, late-season games before the final injury. I don’t think the Avs would have beaten Nashville in the first round even with Varly in goal, but it probably would have gone to seven games at least, not six.

This is obviously a huge upcoming year for him. He’s playing for the next contract, is starting to enter his 30s and has some injury history. Plus, he’ll be pushed by newcomer Phillip Grubauer. It should be very interesting to see how he performs, but he’s proven he’s still a good NHL goalie.

Adrian Dater
Author

Adrian Dater, was born in Vermont and lived as a tot in New York City before living most of his first 25 years in New Hampshire. Education:  Went to Keene State College and received a degree in journalism in 1988. I wrote sports for the college paper, called "The Equinox." Career: After a two-year stint out of college working as a proofreader and part--time sports writer for The Concord Monitor (N.H)., I moved to Denver in May of 1991, with no job, no connections and no car, but a lot of hope. After doing some odd jobs (including working as a bill collector for a trash company), I found some odd writing jobs for local periodicals and then latched on with The Denver Post in December of 1991 as a score-taker for the high-school sports department. That led to more writing jobs, such as covering DU hockey, lots of high-school coverage and various minor-pro sports. In March of 1995, I got a scoop that would change my life: I broke the story of the Quebec Nordiques moving to Denver to become the Avalanche, and for the next 19 years I covered the team every day. In 2015, I became the lead NHL national columnist with Bleacher Report, where I worked until 2017 before joining BSN Denver. I have also been a main hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Hockey News, The Sporting News, Hockey Digest, Versus.com and have written seven books on sports, including the 2006 best-selling "Blood Feud", a book about the famous Avs-Red Wings rivalry. Most memorable sports moment: As a fan, when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Also, when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. The finest sports book I’ve ever read: It would probably be a book called "Game Misconduct", by Russ Conway. It's the story of how a small-town sports reporter (Conway) in Massachusetts exposed the corruption and brought down one of the most powerful figures in the NHL at the time, Alan Eagleson. The book is a primer on how to report and investigate powerful entities. One sports movie that I can’t live without: I loved "Rocky III", and I loved a 1977 basketball movie starring Robby Benson called "One on One." And, of course, "Slap Shot." Most memorable experience as a reporter: I've gotten to interview some of my boyhood heroes, including Larry Bird, Fred Lynn and Luis Tiant. But probably the most memorable of them all was writing the story of Ray Bourque's one and only Stanley Cup in his 22 years, his final game as a pro with the Avs in 2001. The sport that started it all: As a guy who eventually grew to become 6-foot-6, I could hoop it up some. I was the starting center on my high-school team that made the N.H. state semifinals in 1983. While I never played competitive hockey, I played a lot on the many frozen ponds of New Hampshire and had a pretty good slap shot.