Patrick Roy may be a controversial coach, but he’s arguably one of the best goaltenders the NHL has ever seen — making the goaltending controversy his Colorado Avalanche roster has been undergoing that much more ironic.
Roy has confirmed that he’s giving the previously ailing Semyon Varlamov a shot to prove he’s healthy on Thursday night — with backup Reto Berra sitting this one out to start — although it’s a toss-up as to whether that’s going to work.
The team has been struggling all season with an ill-fitting offensive roster and a lackluster defense, but the situation in net has contributed more than anything else to the downfall of last year’s luck-driven Avalanche squad. The addition of veteran winger Jarome Iginla — who, after a premature exit from the post-season on the Boston Bruins’ top line, chose to head to the Western Conference — hasn’t put the team any closer to seeing a Stanley Cup, as injuries to sophomore phenom Nathan MacKinnon and starting netminder Semyon Varlamov have plagued the franchise all year. Now, with Varlamov returning from his day-to-day status, he’s putting the struggling netminder back in — and although the prematurely-signed Berra has struggled to finish a full game with respectable stats, he’s doing better this time around than Pickard.
Roy’s decision to ice a tandem of Berra and Varlamov as the Avalanche take on the New Jersey Devils could be speaking to his loss of confidence in AHL call-up Calvin Pickard — he was yanked after allowing four goals on only six shots early in the Avalanche’s 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils aren’t known for being offensively powerful, so this is an opportunity for Varlamov to prove that he’s over whatever got him pulled from a game earlier this month — although Roy’s decision to continue using the oft-injured netminder during what many consider a lost season is questionable at best.
The decision to go with Berra as Varlamov’s back-up, of course, also speaks volumes.
It’s been a fairly common practice of Roy’s all year to sit Berra behind Varlamov as back-up while Pickard is given the starts in the AHL for experience, but Varlamov has been missing patches of the season with increasing frequency over his lingering groin issues. The likelihood that the Vezina nominee will go down again in this game is much higher than it was earlier in the season — so keeping Berra on standby instead of Pickard could be a sign that Roy is either rewarding the backup who struggled so early on, or that he’s lost his faith in the younger goalie.