And, make no mistake, first-year NHL coach and legendary goalie Patrick Roy has everything to do with his netminder's remarkable turnaround.
Varlamov played 88 regular-season games in an Avalanche uniform prior to this season and left something to be desired over that span with goals-against averages of 2.59 in 2011-12 (53 games) and 3.02 in 2012-13 (35 games). Varlamov, drafted in the first round by the Washington Capitals in 2006, totaled the most losses (21) of any goalie during the shortened season.
But with his latest brilliant effort Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, Varlamov proved again that he's been at his best the more his team has leaned on him since Roy took over. Varlamov stopped 46 of 48 shots faced in the victory to improve to 9-0-3 in games where he's made 35-plus saves this season. He has allowed three goals or fewer in all but one of his 16 games dating back to his last regulation loss on Dec. 10.
It was logical to think that Roy, who won the Stanley Cup four times as a player while posting the second-most regular-season wins (551) and most playoff wins (151) in League history, could help Varlamov put his erratic play in the past. But to see such a stark contrast over the first few months Varlamov has worked with Roy's staff is surprising to fantasy owners who selected him on average late in the 11th round of Yahoo drafts.
As a team, the Avalanche allowed 3.12 goals per game last season (27th in NHL). This season has proved to be a complete 180, as Colorado has given up 2.48 goals per game (12th in NHL).
Ranked 96th overall by Matt Cubeta and 83rd overall by myself in NHL.com's midseason fantasy top-200 poll, Varlamov (2.33 G.A.A., .927 save percentage) has proven to be a difference maker for Colorado and is approaching top-10 territory among goalies. In keeper formats, few goalies are more valuable than this 25-year-old.
With 36 regular-season games remaining for the Avalanche and a chance to put his development on display in the 2014 Sochi Olympics for host Russia, it will be interesting to see if Varlamov is able to sustain his effective play on both platforms in the coming months.
But, at this point for fantasy owners, that's icing on the cake. Varlamov has been everything you could have asked for and more on the stat sheet based on realistic expectations entering the season.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
|Back to top|