There’s this idea a player should not lose his job to his teammate that plays the same position because he was injured. Maybe in Utopia. This pro sports business is a cutthroat one. It’s unrealistic to think he will get a chance to get his job back when he is activated from the injured list.
That’s what Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov might experience when he comes back from the injured list. That’s because Avs coach Patrick Roy might stick with Calvin Pickard as the team’s goaltender if the current goaltender continues to play well.
Pickard is getting his shot to be the starting goaltender as a test trial. He started the last three games for the Avalanche since Varlamov was hurt, and he has played seven games since his start against the Hurricanes on Nov. 22. He has done a good job in the last three games to the point there could be a goaltender controversy in the works. Overall, he is 4-5 with a 2.42 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
Roy wants to find out how his 22-year-old goaltender fares in a three-game road trip that starts tomorrow night at Pittsburgh. That game will be a good barometer of what the kid is about against a team that has riches of talent on offense in the Penguins. If he dominates and wins, Roy may have seen enough to trust the goaltender of the future the rest of the way.
Pickard is the reason to watch this underachieving Avalanche team at this point. He has become a talking point with Avs fans. They are looking at him as a beacon of hope to not only salvage this season, but winning a championship one day. They know Varlamov is not the guy that will take their team to a championship.
One has to think Roy feels that way, too. He has to know Varlamov is a nice goaltender that knows how to win in the regular season only. Come playoff time, he can’t rely on last year’s starting goaltender. He had to see enough of him to come to a conclusion.
Last year’s Game 7 should provide the Avalanche coach a reminder that he needs to find a better alternative in the nets. Varlamov blew four leads to work with in that game. He could not come up with a big save when it mattered. To blow four leads, it shows the goaltender is inept.
Fair or not, the Avalanche lost to the Wild in Game 7 because Varlamov did not have it. It’s easy to blame the defense, but when a goaltender has four leads to work with, it’s on him to find a way to protect it down the stretch. It was clear that moment was too big for him. That’s been the story of his enigmatic career. He struggled in Game 7 couple of times in his career when he was the Capitals goaltender.
Roy did all he could to fix the psyche of his goaltender. He put in the time to make Varlamov be the best goaltender he can be. At some point though, there has to be a breaking point. There has to be an acceptance this is who Varlamov is. That day could come soon if Pickard keeps up his great play.
Yes, Pickard is the goaltender of the future, but the future becomes now at a moment’s notice. His last couple of starts have accentuate that.
Pickard was great Saturday night against the Blues. He was why the Avs were in this game. He did all he could to put his team in a position to win. Ask Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie when he denied them of a goal when they had good scoring chances. His problem was he couldn’t score. There’s nothing he can do if the Avs can’t score enough to work with, so he took a 3-2 loss in overtime against the Blues.
After a rough second period Thursday night against the Jets, Pickard rebounded by playing well in the third period. He had 30 saves, and he put the Avs in a position to tie it and win it in a game his team needed. His effort was remarkable to the point he was awarded the first start of the game by the Denver media.
Yes, two games are a small sample size. Still, it’s about riding the hot goaltender. It’s about what you have done for me lately. If Pickard keeps playing well, Roy has no choice but to stick with his guy.
Varlamov is making too much dough to be a backup. He has accomplished enough where he should get a chance. With that said, the Avs are in a position where they need wins to stay afloat and get back in the playoff race. They need a spark.
If Pickard keeps up the good work, Roy won’t hesitate to stick with him.
It’s nothing personal. It’s about winning games.
Roy is desperate to get wins and get his team on track, and he will do whatever it takes. He will do what’s best for his team, not satisfy Varlamov’s psyche.
If it means his injured goaltender not getting a chance to get his job back, so be it.
It could be Varlamov’s tough luck whether it’s fair or not.
That’s the cutthroat life of pro sports.
Contact or Follow Leslie Monteiro: @LightRodWriter
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Leslie is a contributor for Lightning Rod Sports. He covered high school sports in Bergen County out in North Jersey, and has written op-ed columns on sports such as Bleacher Report and NY Sports Digest.