Semyon Varlamov went from frustratingly average in the locked out 2013 season to one of the three best in the league this season. While many people heap praises on new goalie coach Francois Allaire for his drastic turnaround (and rightly so), we can't forget how much of it is due to Varly himself.
Steve: I don't see how anything less than A+ is acceptable for a top-3 goalie in the NHL.
Mike: 41 wins in 63 games. That's a 65% winning percentage. 2 out of 3 games went down as W's. 0.927 S%. 3 ASSISTS!!! 2,013 shots! Seriously, this dude was absolutely stellar. Stone cold killer in net.
Andi: Is it possible to give him more than a 100%? Because after what Varly did this season, he deserves extra credit. From working hard this summer to address issues in his game, to not wilting but excelling as a young netminder under the greatest goalie that ever played, to dragging a defensive core that's probably the worst in the Central to a Division Championship, all while facing the most shots of any netminder in the NHL, Varly has been superhuman for us this year. He even managed to overcome major drama in his personal life and keep it from affecting his game. He's our MVP and the single biggest reason we finished as well as we did. IMO, he should have been a Hart finalist. I can't say enough about his play, so I think I'll just add "Thank you, Varly, for everything" and leave it at that.
Cheryl: Varlamov did this season exactly what I expected him to do. He elevated his game and allowed the guidance of one of the world's best goalie coaches to bring out and cultivate the natural talent he has. Most pundits think Varly will crash to earth next season, that we won't see this kind of performance from him again. However, there's a reason no one is surprised that guys like Tuuka Rask get annual accolades. He's just that talented. An improved defense next season will only go to solidify Varly's name in conversations about the best goalies in the league, not just the season.
Sandie: He's a Vezina candidate for a reason.
c6hor8: He was amazing.
Mike: Averaged 33 shots a game. I felt the team let him down in game 3 to heretofore unforeseen levels. Was human in Game 1 and 7, rather than superhuman.
Andi: A .913 sv% is NHL average for a starting goalie. That's what Varly managed in the playoffs. He gave us a chance to win, but he wasn't as superhuman as in the regular season. He was beaten by some very good shots, but when he needed the same bailing out from the team that he'd given them all year, they came up short. Given the health struggles of the D, I think he did what he could. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get us to the second round.
Cheryl: Varly didn't regress to who he really is in the playoffs. He regressed to what a goalie, even the most talented, is when playing behind a horrible defense. Yeah, he let in some heartbreakers, some of which could be argued cost key games, but night after night of constant shelling will wear anybody down.
c6hor8: Good in some games, but not the Varly we know
Snippets from the staff's preseason comments about how much Allaire and Roy can help Varly.
Steve: Honestly I'm hoping consistent work with consistent staff will keep Varly fairly even throughout the year, as far as Goalies go.
Earl: Varly's got a great opportunity to show what he's got this year, and he better.
Mike: I'm hopeful that hearing something from a respected voice like Allaire coupled with any input from Roy and Giggy will help provide a level of "these guys want me to succeed" for him and elevate his game.
Cole: I don’t think we’ll really see the impact (from working with Allaire and Roy) on Varlamov until late in the season, or even early next season, once they have worked together long enough, but the biggest things I’ll be watching this season are: 1) How Varlamov plays in games following a loss, 2) How Varly plays after giving up a bad goal, 3) How much Varlamov talks to his defense (it needs to be more IMO), and 4) rebound control and body language (kidding).
Andi: Allaire, Roy, and Giguere all belong to a specific school of thought when it comes to save selection and techniques, and I don't know if Varly will buy into it.
AJ: Allaire should cultivate that talent into another Hall of Fame career.
Cheryl: I suspect Allaire will be a calming influence on Varly and help him take his game to the next level.