The Colorado Avalanche will open February by hosting three divisional teams, Chicago, Dallas and Winnipeg. A win against even two of those three teams would be substantial for Colorado, who has a narrow margin on Nashville (also a division rival) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Head coach Patrick Roy will need his No. 1 goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, to be at his best to grab those much-needed wins and solidify the Avs’ playoff chances.

Good news for Coach Roy, Varlamov is playing as well as he’s played all year – perhaps as well as he’s played in his career.

Varlamov was announced as the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday. This was his second First Star of the Week honor this season, just a month removed from his first, which he received on Dec. 21. The Avalanche goalie certainly earned this one, as he came off a 4-0-0 week, allowing only four goals on 142 shots; those four goals were spread out, one per game. Most importantly, three of those performances game against division rivals, including two teams he’ll face again in early February, Dallas and Winnipeg.

The wins against Dallas, Winnipeg and St. Louis improved Colorado’s Central Division record to 12-3-1 and their overall record to 26-21-3. The Central Division occupies five of the eight available Western Conference playoff spots at present, so maintaining a high winning percentage within the division will be critical to securing a playoff berth. Varlamov has been stellar within the division, including 10-0-0 in his last 10 meetings with Dallas and a 1-1-1 record against defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, whom Colorado faces Feb. 2.

Varlamov’s award extends Colorado’s Star of the Week count to four for this season.  Joining him is defenseman Tyson Barrie, who was named Third Star of the Week on Jan. 11, and center Matt Duchene, who was named First Star of the Week on Nov. 16.

With his superb performance, Varlamov improved his season save percentage to .918. Coincidentally, that’s his running career save percentage which moves him into a tie with none other than his head coach for best all-time for franchise. (Earlier this year he also moved into second place all-time on the franchise wins leaderboard.)

For as good as Varlamov was last week, posting a .926 save percentage, he’s still got a ways to go before he matches his form of 2013-14 when he posted a .927 save percentage for the entire season en route to a Vezina Trophy runner-up.

Roy understands from his own career that a goaltender at the top of his game can carry a team deep into the playoffs.

With half of the season behind them and 12 more Central Division matchups yet to come, it is necessary for Varlamov to continue playing at a high caliber. With two First Star of the Week performances under his belt already, Varlamov’s confidence appears to be nearing the level he had during that stellar 2013-14 campaign. That confidence may be just what the Avs need to move out of a fight for a playoff spot and firmly into the playoff picture.