Semyon Varlamov made Avalanche history Tuesday night as the Russian net minder stopped all 54 shots he faced in a 2-0 Colorado win. This was a regular season record for the Avalanche, as well as the most in Varly’s career.
The Avs sprinted out of the gate with two of the quickest goals to start a game since 1995. The first came just 53 seconds in on a brilliant rush up the ice by Mitchell who evaded a Hawks defender and fired it at the net, only to have the lightning-quick hands of Nate Mackinnon scoop up the rebound. Great hockey sense by Mack, he felt the urgency that Crawford would be set for the rebound and put it up as quickly as possible.
The second came just 24 seconds later. Once again Mackinnon shows off his blazing speed to get past both Chicago defenders, and Talbot only needed to whack it in on the doorstep. Couldn’t have asked for a better start.
While the boys in burgundy were outshot 17-11 in the first frame, I felt they played very well against possibly the best team in the league. Varlamov stood strong stopping every shot he faced in his first bout with the Hawks this season.
The 2nd period showed a Chicago team we’re a little more accustomed to seeing. They bombarded the Avs with 21 shots; forcing Varly to come up with some very clutch saves. Yet despite the lopsided shot totals, the Avs played a very sound defensive game. The Blackhawks were unable to convert on both power play attempts as well as two minutes of 4-on-4 (which actually looked like another Chicago power play). One highlight however was from Brad Stuart, who cleared away a puck from the crease that had bounced off Varly’s helmet.
Colorado showed grit as well, out hitting the home team 27-12. Mackinnon even showed some ugliness with a couple dust-ups between Johnny Oduya. Stats aside, Avs still lead Chicago 2-0 on the road.
Skip ahead to the third, Chicago continued their brand of unrelenting offense, absolutely peppering Varly with another 16 shots. Yet once again he proved why he is Colorado’s No. 1 goalie with save after incredible save. Halfway through the 3rd the Avs possibly thought they had sealed up the victory with a double-minor call against Toews. Instead the power play was negated by a too-many-men call against Colorado.
Goaltender Crawford was pulled with nearly three minutes remaining, and played just about the entire duration of the game in the Colorado zone. Varly then made probably some of his best saves of the game in those final minutes, leading to a historic shutout and huge victory against a very good Chicago team. The Avs are now .500 for the third time this season, still looking to go above that mark for the first time.
I have to say that this win isn’t just a big one for the team, but for the fans. For every Avs fan bitter about the Blackhawk-red clad crowds at the Pepsi Center, for every fan annoyed at the five Chicago players voted into the All Star game, and for every fan angry at those who jump on the ever-growing Blackhawk-bandwagon, this win is for you.
Colorado now cuts Chicago’s lead in the season series to 1-2-0. Next up are the Ottawa Senators Thursday Jan. 8 at home.
MHH Three Stars of the Game:
1. Semyon Varlamov
54 save shutout
Most in Colorado reg. season history
2. Nathan Mackinnon
Goal, Assist, +2
3. Brad Stuart
+2, 5 hits, 1 block