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Rambler's Top100

The heat is on when it comes to Avs' Varlamov
30.09.2013. Frei, Terry. Denver Post

 In the exhibition season, goalie Semyon Varlamov displayed all that he has been in his two years with the Avalanche. He was terrific when making 38 saves in a 2-1 victory over Anaheim. In his other two appearances, though, he was decent to wince-inducing awful.

After the Avalanche's practice Sunday, coach Patrick Roy -- that still seems a bit strange to type -- summarized Varlamov's three games, then added of his 25-year-old goalie: "I'm happy with his work habits. I'm confident that he's going to have a good year."

No, this is not a complete embrace. This is wait-and-see, beginning in earnest Wednesday night, when Roy watches Varlamov from the bench as the Avalanche opens the regular-season at home against Anaheim.

Varlamov's three-year, $8.5-million contract -- an expensive gesture of faith offered by the Avalanche after acquiring him from Washington in 2011 for first- and second-round draft choices -- is up after this season. He will be playing behind a defense that has been slightly retooled, but remains suspect, at best.

Generally speaking, the higher the stakes, the higher the pressures, the better Roy played. The more his team needed him to be exceptional, the better he was. To me, that's the challenge of playing goal for Roy.

During the brief camp and the exhibition season, Roy -- as promised -- left most of the direct work with the goaltenders to renowned goalie coach Francois Allaire, who also worked with Varlamov over the summer in Switzerland and Montreal.

"Francois has carte blanche, in French," Roy said. "I don't want to interfere. If Varly wants to talk to me, it's no different than other players. If I feel I need to have a talk with him, I'll do it. I'll give him my opinion. ... But it's in the hands of Francois."

Varlamov wasn't yet born when a young Roy stunningly helped lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1986, but even in Samara, Russia, he gradually became more conscious of Roy's difference-making work as his career progressed in Montreal and Denver.

"Of course, he's a legend and he was my idol when I was growing up," Varlamov said. "But right now, he's my head coach. I think he's more worried about the team, not worried about me. He has 25 players on the team, and he has to take care of all of them. I have to worry more about my game and how I practice."

Last season, Varlamov was 11-21-3, with a 3.03-goals-against average and a shaky .903 save percentage. He wore down and was excessively scapegoated at times. It erased much of the credibility he built up in a tremendous stretch run to the 2011-12 season.

"Everybody knows I didn't play great last year," Varlamov said. "We finished 29th last year, so I don't think anybody was happy about last year. Same as me. We all want to play in playoffs."

It has been much-noticed that the Avalanche, even amidst Broncomania, is relevant again in Colorado. But this has been understated: Roy's arrival, plus the high-profile young forwards the franchise has drafted in recent years, and even Joe Sakic's ascension in the front office, will make this one of the most intriguing teams in the NHL. At least until the novelty wears off -- and it might not -- the Avs will be well-chronicled internationally and again be especially well-covered when they visit Canada.

One of the most intriguing questions will be how patient Roy is with the guy playing his position. My guess: Not very, and even less patient than the typical NHL coach. I suspect he even wants Varlamov to know that. Because in the coach's mind, the goalie should welcome additional pressure, coming from all angles. That's what brought out the best in No. 33.

Страничка Семёна Варламова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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