The 25-year-old Russian, who couldn’t seem win a game on the road last season no matter what happened, is now in sole possession of first place in the NHL with 37 wins on the year. Varlamov’s play has cemented him in the upper echelon of elite goaltending, putting him with names like Marc-Andre Fleury, Antti Niemi, and Tuukka Rask.
“It’s a good thing for me. Good thing for the team. Without team, I can’t do anything, I can tell that,” said Varlamov after his latest victory. “I want to say thanks for my teammates. They’ve done a great job for me this year.”
“That’s why I’ve got 37 wins because the guys doing great job for me.”
Just how well is Varlamov playing?
He needs just three more victories in the next eight matches to tie his new head coach, Patrick Roy, for the most wins (40) in franchise history, a record set during the Stanley Cup winning 2000-01 season. A win in one of Colorado’s two remaining home games will also tie Roy’s franchise record for home wins (24) from the same campaign.
Varlamov has won 21 times since December 31st and went 7-3 during the month of March. He has set personal bests in number of games played (58), starts (55), and wins (37) this year.
When stacking up against the competition, Varlamov has proven to be the key centerpiece in Colorado’s outstanding turnaround season. He is second in the league in shots faced (1,853)—behind only Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes—and first in saves made (1,715), showcasing the fact that he has had to do some work to get his club into its first postseason berth since the 2009-10 campaign.
According to the Avalanche, Varlamov improved to 7-1-1 when seeing 40 or more shots with a big win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps this is why he has the fifth best save percentage (.926) in the NHL.
Hell, the way this kid is playing he could even win the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender in the league. He is certainly turning enough heads to get some much deserved consideration.
Needless to say, the young backstopper—who also got to represent the host nation at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia—is pretty excited to have earned a chance to compete for the greatest trophy in all of sports.
“I can tell we have been waiting for this moment for the last four years. Right now we are all excited, the Colorado organization, the boys because after this game we are in a playoff spot finally,” said Varlamov after defeating the Sharks.
For many on the Colorado Avalanche, playing bonus hockey in April is a relatively new experience. Fresh faces like Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie, Patrick Bordeleau, Nick Holden, and Nate Guenin have never skated beyond the regular season in the NHL. Neither have mored tenured players like PA Parenteau and Erik Johnson.
In fact, there’s only a handful of players on the team—Alex Tanguay (out for the season), Maxime Talbot, Corey Sarich, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, John Mitchell, and Jamie McGinn—that have played in more postseason contests than Varlamov (19), who truly burst onto the scene in Washington when he stole the starting job from Jose Theodore in the middle of a series.
“I’ve played in playoffs, but that was a long time ago and I played with a different team back in Washington. I remember that playing in the playoffs and playing in season is totally different feeling, totally different game you know,” said Varlamov. “I’m sure we will be excited about it. It’s going to be so much fun to play in the playoffs.”
The way that Varlamov and the Avalanche have fared under the direction of Roy and his staff, there’s no telling how this incredible season will end. Maybe with a bang and not with a whimper.
One thing is certain though, Varlamov will continue to learn and grow, championing the Avalanche for many years to come with his unparalleled athleticism, quick limbs, and indelible knack for winning.