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.
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.
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.
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.
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.