It’s not often the defending Stanley Cup champions kick off a new season with a different starting goaltender than the one that helped them reach the pinnacle of hockey just three months ago.

But in a flat-cap NHL, the Avs had no choice but to let Darcy Kuemper walk as a free agent. Kuemper won 10 of 16 playoff games, splitting duties with backup Pavel Francouz when injuries kept him out.

Colorado spent little time finding his replacement. Nearly a week before the start of free agency — just 11 days after winning the Cup, the Avalanche traded for Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers.

The 26-year-old later signed a three-year deal, and is slated to become the third starting goalie in Denver in as many seasons. But with Francouz breathing down his neck, Georgiev has no choice but to prove his worth to a team entering another Stanley-Cup-or-bust season.

Georgiev is not as established as Kuemper was when he joined the Avs. He has just 129 career games, the latter of which have seen his numbers dip since New York turned to Igor Shesterkin as their undisputed goalie of the future. Instead, Georgiev is more similar to Colorado’s starter of two seasons ago — Philipp Grubauer — who stepped in as an unproved No. 1 but was also eager to make the leap into the starting role.

The mystery box that is Georgiev will be a fascinating story to follow all season long. But what exactly are the Avalanche getting out of the Russian goaltender? I decided to go back and watch all of his games from the 2021-22 season to figure that out:

Listen to “Training Camp Begins” on Spreaker.

Where he thrives

– One of the more noticeable aspects of his game is his steady, energy-saving, minimal movement while preparing for the attack. Goalies often expend a ton of energy following pucks around the defensive zone but Georgiev conserves his energy and waits to be in a full-on ready position when the time is right. Another former Ranger great, Henrik Lundqvist, was also exceptional at this. And Georgiev was his backup and had a chance to learn from him for a number of seasons early in his career.

– An immediate strength many will notice with Georgiev is his speed at moving laterally. His ability to follow a pass across the ice is unmatched by both Grubauer and Kuemper. His lateral quickness will be the catalyst for some flashy, exciting saves. Georgiev is extremely athletic and loves the flashy leg pad, glove or blocker save.

– Often a cliché when it comes to describing goalies, Georgiev never gives up on a play. It’s one of his more glaring strengths. As previously explained, he plays an energy-saving style, but that’s only present when his duties of stopping the puck aren’t immediately required. When Georgiev is fighting off rebounds or loose pucks, he does it relentlessly and intensely. Zero quit in his game.

– Georgiev’s ability to read the play so well allows him to be above average at the three points above. A key component in modern goaltending is the ability to understand how the play is coming at you, how it will develop and ultimately end. It is the goaltender’s form of displaying a high hockey IQ and it’s where Georgiev thrives. Not only is he adept at reading the play unfolding before him, but as a shooter comes in on him at close range looking for his chance to capitalize, Georgiev often knows what they’re thinking before the shooter does. Georgiev will confidently position himself accordingly and deny the goal, making him extremely difficult to beat from close range.

Where he needs work

I will say, Georgiev’s weaknesses are not things that will keep him from advancing his career. Rather, these are things I noticed that tend to rear their ugly head from time to time.

– With an unwillingness to give up on a play also comes the tendency of sliding out of position or flopping around attempting to impersonate the great Dominik Hasek. Georgiev doesn’t necessarily slide himself out of position much, in fact, his awareness of the posts and his positioning in the crease aren’t an issue whatsoever. But his urge to fight for every puck can put him into some precarious positions.

– The chaos and unpredictability of hockey is what makes the game so great. It’s also one of the hardest parts of a goalie’s game to develop. How exactly do you predict the unpredictable? For Georgiev, this is where he starts to show some holes in his game. He isn’t the best at fighting off screens (especially on the power play) and finding the second chance or sequence save. It’s not a consistent issue, but when it arises, it’s often chaotic and noticeable.

– Georgiev gives off a real no-nonsense energy about himself. But that short fuse seems to be directed mostly at himself. He holds himself to a high standard which often leads to confidence issues and self-doubt. This could be something to keep an eye on in games where he struggles. It’s important to not let him lose confidence at any point, but a strong defensive core led by Cale Makar should help mitigate this problem. The Rangers struggled defensively, often needing their goalie to bail them out. That won’t be as prevalent in front of Colorado’s defensive core.

It’s also important to make sure none of Georgiev’s teammates get down on him either. Just ask Tony Deangelo.

Listen to “Training Camp Begins” on Spreaker.