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Is it time to start worrying about Semyon Varlamov?

Adrian Dater Avatar
December 9, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. – It is silly to go there just yet. No, we don’t have a goaltending controversy on the Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov is still the No. 1 goalie. But another game or two like his last couple of outings? Sure, we could see a change on the depth chart. That’s hockey, that’s sports and Varlamov is officially on the clock to get things going in a positive way again.

Varlamov was pulled in the second period of Saturday’s 7-1 blowout Avs loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning (as opposed to the close-fought 7-1 loss, yes I know), after allowing five goals. In a little more than his last four periods played, Varlamov has allowed 11 goals, with six coming Tuesday night against Pittsburgh. Philipp Grubauer relieved him, and promptly gave up a big, juicy rebound that led to the sixth Lightning goal.

No, Varly wasn’t great, but he nonetheless came into the game with a .923 saves percentage – considerably higher than Grubauer’s .909. He got little help from his sloppy teammates against Tampa Bay, a brutal defensive first two periods that saw the Lightning seemingly do whatever it wanted.

I will say that Varly’s lateral quickness has seemed a hair slower than usual of late. He says nothing is bothering him physically. His side-to-side quickness and overall flexibility has always been one of his hallmarks, but lately he’s just seemed a tad late on reactions and movements.

I asked Varlamov after the game how he’s feeling right now physically and he said, “I feel good.”

About the game, he wasn’t feeling so good.

“Tough game, tough start. They score right away on the power play,” Varlamov said. “I don’t think there’s any excuse. It was one of those days. Tampa is a good team, they play well. We let them create too many scoring chances in the first and second period, and we paid the price.”

No time to panic, though. The whole team was just outplayed badly by the top team in the league. It happens. I think the Avs are a little road-weary, and that caught up to them a bit tonight. That, and the Lightning are really, really good.

I asked Bednar in a roundabout way if it’s time to start worrying about Varlamov, and he shook that line of questioning off immediately.

“No, it’s a team thing,” Bednar said. “We just weren’t ready to play and compete the way we normally are. It showed right from the start of the game. We lost too many battles. It is what it is. We’ve played 19 of 30 on the road, now we get a day off, come home. We’ll get home and get back at it.”

OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

  • The Avs’ penalty-killing percentage is starting to slide, and you don’t have to look much further than what happened on Tampa Bay’s first goal for reasons why. Too many panicky or soft clearing attempts are being intercepted by opposing point men and redistributed down low for easy goals against scrambling players trying to get back in position after the failed clearouts. Matt Nieto had the puck on his backhand with nobody around him, but put a soft puck right on the stick of a Bolt and Steven Stamkos had an easy tap-in on the backdoor side seconds later for a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead. After being in the top 10 much of the year in PK percentage, the Avs entered the game 14th at 80.4.
  • The Avs have been caught napping on weak-side scoring areas on the PK too, just like on the Stamkos goal and on the goal that made it 7-1 in the third. Everybody is just watching the puck instead of reading the play around them.
  • What did Bednar talk to me a lot about after practice Friday? The need to stop taking stick fouls in the offensive zone, was one big topic. And what happens early on in the game? A Tyson Jost offensive-zone stick foul, which helped lead to the first Stamkos goal. That’s the kind of thing that will keep Jost’s ice time low with Bednar.
  • Alexander Kerfoot has now gone 12 straight games without a goal. He hasn’t had a point, in fact, since a Nov. 24 game against Dallas. Is it time to worry some about this? It became that way a few games ago. He’s not getting many chances of late, and now he’s being buried on a depth line. Colin Wilson set him up with a pass alone in front in the second period, and he fumbled the puck away. It’s been that kind of stretch for No. 13 lately.
  • I spent a fair amount of the night chatting with Scotty Bowman, who spends much of his time in Florida and goes to most every Lightning game. He was really raving about Sam Girard. He used the word “special”, which he isn’t known to toss around all that often.
  • Talking with Erik Johnson earlier in the day, and he said the NHL rescinded the major/match penalty assessed to him on that hit to Alexander Steen a few games ago against St. Louis. That matters in the sense that he won’t have a “strike” against him on his rap sheet for possible future suspension stuff.
  • Vladislav Kamenev left the game in the second period, clutching his right wrist/forearm following a collision along the Lightning bench. He went straight for the locker room and didn’t return. Didn’t look too promising, but we probably won’t get a full update until Monday. He broke his left forearm last year. Bednar said afterward he didn’t have a prognosis.
  • Mark Barberio has resumed skating again, but is probably at least a week away from a realistic chance at returning to the lineup.
  • It was a rough night for the tandem of Ian Cole and Tyson Barrie. Each was a minus-4.
  • Nathan MacKinnon’s first-period goal was his 20th.

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