Avalanche poised to make run with Varlamov in net

Friday, 02.07.2014 / 2:26 AM | Kevin Weekes  - NHL Network Analyst

So many goaltenders have posted incredible numbers this season. Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche is certainly one of them, having already topped his previous season high of 26 wins, which he set two years ago.

The Russian's great play in the crease hasn't gone unnoticed, as he was rewarded last week with a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $29.5 million. With Varlamov now established as the clear No. 1 in net, Colorado has solidified a core that we could be hearing about for some time.

I spoke to Varly's agent, Paul Theofanous, and he gave me a real good breakdown of what went into signing that extension. First of all, it's the right fit. The Avalanche have been great with him, and they love what they're building there and the direction the team is heading. He's only 25 but has played almost 200 games, which is quite a bit for a young goalie in the NHL.

At that age, he fits in well with a young core than includes Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson and Gabriel Landeskog. It's clear with the extension that the Avalanche have identified Varlamov as one of their key foundational pieces along with those other guys.

Of course, coach Patrick Roy has been instrumental in all of this. Between Roy, goalie coach Francois Allaire and backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Varlamov really has three goalie coaches. You have Giguere, who has had an unbelievable career, along with Allaire, who is one of the great NHL goalie coaches. And Patrick Roy is Patrick Roy. That's a lot of support for a young goaltender.

All of this started when Patrick and Francois asked Varlamov to come from Russia this summer to train in Montreal. There were a couple of little things they wanted to adjust in his game. They also wanted to see him put in work to make some of those technical changes while still allowing him to be explosive. Just putting in that work during the summer gave him a leg up. The Avalanche got off to a great start, and Varlamov had a big hand in that.

Just being around the Avalanche, you can tell that Varlamov loves his teammates. It's a very upbeat and supportive locker room. You put all those things together and all the boxes were checked in order to sign that extension. I know he's very happy to be there.

Colorado features one of the most exciting young groups of forwards in the League, but I think the defense has clearly exceeded expectations. Look at Johnson and how he has matured under Roy. He is playing big minutes and his reads look a lot better, both offensively and defensively. Barrie is another very skilled young guy, but more importantly he has a strong plus-minus rating.

Some people thought this team would drop off after their hot start. But they're still winning a lot of games because they do a lot of things well. Patrick is also a good in-game coach with good instincts on the bench. Technically, he's a smart coach, but it's important to have that feel on the bench. The real good coaches have that feel.

First and foremost, Patrick Roy isn't going to take any nonsense. He and Colorado's executive vice president of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, have a healthy respect for each other. They won together as players and Patrick will definitely stand behind what he believes in. Not every coach necessarily has that much juice.

Some people consider this team too young, but I don't see why they can't make a playoff run. Duchene had a taste of the playoffs with O'Reilly their first year when they came in and gave San Jose a scare in 2010. Johnson has played internationally, and many of these players have played in World Juniors, World Championships and the Olympics. So they have big-game experience. Because of that, I don't see why they can't make a playoff push. And their coaching staff has a ton of experience in big-game situations.

They've exceeded expectations so far. Why stop now? Especially with their franchise goalie locked up long-term.

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