Hey, Lay Off Varlamov

Okay, folks, I get it. Semyon Varlamov has not exactly been the second coming of St Patrick since his arrival in Denver. In fact, he hasn't even eclipsed the not-so-celebrated Avalanche tenures of guys like Jose Theodore and Craig Anderson. The Avalanche gave up a lot to get Varlamov and lately they are playing like they would like to give up a lot more for Varlamov. Varly has been maddeningly streaky - 13 goals the last 3 games, 5 goals in the 4 games preceding, 18 goals in the 4 games before that, 11 goals in 6 games before that. Overall, his .898 save percentage has him ranked 60th in the league.

But let's not forget one important fact: Varlamov is 23 years old. Just 5 goalies with 9+ appearances this year are younger than Varly - Andres Lindback, Steve Mason (really?), Jhonas Enroth, Jonathan Bernier and Sergei Bobrovsky. He, like so many of his teammates, is just a kid.

To date, Varlamov has 44 career wins (ironically, the exact same total as his 23-year-old former teammate, Michal Neuvirth). I thought it would be fun to see how V-squared matches up with other 23-year-old goalies through the years. Using hockey reference's handy query tool, I was able to pull up the career numbers for all goalies who had at least 40 wins by age 23, narrowing it down to a "modern" era of 1980 or later.

All told, 39 goalies made the list. And Varly is down at the bottom in total wins and has a long way to go to catch up to the leaders.

Rk Player From To Tm Lg Pos GP W L T/O SV% GAA SO
1 Tom Barrasso 1984 1989 TOT NHL G 310 142 117 35 0.885 3.38 13
2 Grant Fuhr* 1982 1986 EDM NHL G 211 126 43 30 0.886 3.82 2
3 Patrick Roy* 1985 1989 MTL NHL G 187 102 51 24 0.894 2.90 9
4 Carey Price 2008 2011 MTL NHL G 206 98 76 24 0.916 2.60 12
5 Jocelyn Thibault 1994 1998 TOT NHL G 205 87 71 29 0.905 2.80 7
35 Semyon Varlamov 2009 2012 TOT NHL G 90 44 29 13 0.910 2.60 6

However, among all those famous peers, Varly has the 4th best save percentage among 23 year olds with 40 career wins. Yes, guys like Roy and Fuhr played in different eras, but Varlamov compares very well with some very good modern-day goalies (plus Chris Osgood *rimshot*). He's also 5th in career GAA.

Rk Player From To Tm Lg Pos GP W L T/O SV% GAA SO
1 Roberto Luongo 2000 2003 TOT NHL G 194 55 105 19 0.916 2.73 16
2 Carey Price 2008 2011 MTL NHL G 206 98 76 24 0.916 2.60 12
3 Kari Lehtonen 2004 2007 ATL NHL G 110 58 39 9 0.911 2.78 7
4 Semyon Varlamov 2009 2012 TOT NHL G 90 44 29 13 0.910 2.60 6
5 Martin Brodeur 1992 1996 NJD NHL G 168 82 53 26 0.910 2.40 12
6 Michal Neuvirth 2009 2012 WSH NHL G 89 44 24 7 0.909 2.66 6
7 Felix Potvin 1992 1995 TOR NHL G 154 74 52 24 0.909 2.76 5
8 Ondrej Pavelec 2008 2011 ATL NHL G 119 41 51 16 0.908 3.03 6
9 Chris Osgood 1994 1996 DET NHL G 110 76 19 10 0.906 2.43 8
10 Marc-Andre Fleury 2004 2008 PIT NHL G 173 76 67 19 0.905 2.95 11

I think the appearance of Kari Lehtonen and Marc-Andre Fleury on the list is both encouraging and telling. As a 23-year old, Lehtonen backstopped an Atlanta team that finished with 97 points under Bob Hartley. In 68 appearances, he had 10 games with 1 goal or less allowed and 20 with 4 goals or more - more or less in line with Varlamov's (and Colorado's) current season (38 / 4 / 10). He has a .919 save percentage this year while Fleury - who also struggled as a youngster - has a .913 save percentage.

Bottom line: we're still reading the very early chapters of the Semyon Varlamov story. Yes, the story is little choppy here at the beginning, but there are many more pages to go and this deal was always about the future, not the present. And hey, perhaps the guy with 54 wins by the age of 23 can help. As a 23-yeard old, Kirk McLean played for a terrible Vancouver Canucks team. He posted an .880 save percentage and led the league in goals allowed, shots allowed and losses. 4 years later, he backstopped the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals. Part timer or not, he knows what Varlamov is going through...and he knows that the story gets better. Usually.

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