Goalie Analysis: Semyon Varlamov

I had already begun compiling data for this before he was traded so I figured I should just go through with it to get a better view on how Varlamov’s season went. It could also give some insight on some of the things that Varly was able to do when he was healthy as well as give Avs fans some insight on their new goalie. In other words, I did all the work already and want to do this so let’s roll along. I will have one for Tomas Vokoun next, though.

When the Caps coaching staff had to make a decision on which goalie to start for the playoffs, there were many fans divided on who they wanted to see in net. In one corner, there was Michal Neuvirth, who I looked at a few days ago, and he showed that he can be the goalie that can make all of the saves you need to but he hasn’t shown that he can be a top-tier goalie just yet. However, he had started most of the year and did a solid job at it so the job remained his. Then there’s the guy who sat out over 60% of the year but had a better save percentage and playoff experience in previous years. There were a strong group of people who wanted Varly to get the start at game 1 (or at some point) in the playoffs and when looking at his performance this year, you can see why. It really makes you wonder what his season could have been like had he been healthy for an entire year.

Monthly Stats:

I broke things down a little differently this time because Varly missed almost all of October and March and the sample sizes for those months would be pretty small.

Oct-Nov 3-1-0 2.28 0.928 1 0.951 0.826 1
December 3-3-1 2.57 0.913 1 0.922 0.871 0.889
January 2-3-2 1.94 0.94 0 0.933 0.971 1
Feb-April 3-2-2 2.42 0.915 0 0.92 0.884 1
Total 11-8-5 2.24 0.924 2 0.930 0.894 0.95

Those starts in October and November are pretty far apart as Varlamov missed about a month of action after his second appearance against Boston (and first start of the season). He did pretty well in his first five appearances, though including a shutout against Tampa Bay (where he was tested only 17 times at even strength). December was his worst month stat wise but that was mostly due to an ugly performance against the Rangers where he was scored on seven times. Aside from that game, he was very good in December. He had one of his best performances of the season against the St. Louis Blues where he stopped 37 out of 38 shots and a 25 save shutout against Montreal where he stopped nine shots on the powerplay.

January is where things get interesting as Varlamov. He had a .940 save percentage on 216 shots and only allowed one powerplay goal. He also didn’t allow more than three goals in any of those performances and in the ones he did (Vancouver, Tampa), he saw 34 or more shots. The poor record is due to the Caps offense going through a dry spell during this time scoring 10 goals in 7 games (1.45 per game rate) and being shutout three times. In fact, the Caps were shutout in five of Varlamov’s appearances and scored only two goals per game. Really interesting contrast when you saw how much goal support Neuvirth had in his starts. From February through March, Varly only played in eight games, showing how much of an impact injuries had on his season. He also didn’t look as sharp as he did in the previous months in some of these games either (let in most of his bad goals during this period) which I think played a factor into the coaching staff’s decision not to start him in the playoffs. He was still very impressive when healthy at even strength and his PK numbers are in the top half of the league.


Save Pct.

Month 40-50′ 20-39′ 1-19′
Oct-Nov 0.941 0.969 0.828
December 0.987 0.955 0.785
January 0.969 0.985 0.839
Feb-April 0.969 0.906 0.845
Total 0.969 0.952 0.822


Month 40-50’+ 20-39′ 1-19′ at goal
Oct-Nov 51 32 29 112
December 78 67 65 210
January 97 66 56 219
Feb-April 96 64 58 218
Total 322 229 208 759

Like Neuvy, Varlamov is great at making saves on shots that come from a significant distance, although he struggled with that a bit during his last eight games. His save percentage on close range shots appears to be weak but I still want to see what the league average is for this before I draw any conclusions. His numbers from shots 1-19′ away are slightly better than Neuvirth’s, though. Judging from what I watched in the videos, his rebound control is slightly better than Neuvirth’s and there was a lot of poor net coverage on the goals he gave up. Him and Neuvirth have some similarities where they had weaker save percentages on close range shots when they had a bigger workload there. Crash the net, score goals. It works both ways.

Zones and Good/Bad Goals

First off, I was a little harsh on Neuvirth in my last post in regards to his rebound control because obviously you can’t expect a goalie to rebound every puck into the corner so I was a little more lenient with that this time. I also plan to revise Neuvirth’s critique a little bit because there were some goals I labeled as “bad” that were debatable. Anyway, here’s where Varlamov gave up his goals:

Yes, it's an old picture but it's the best for this diagram.

Varlamov’s always been criticized for having a weak glove hand and that reigns somewhat true here only he gave up less goals high-glove and more on the lower side and there were a lot of goals he surrendered because they went by his left pad. Although, most of the shots he gave up from long range beat him high glove more than anywhere else. His low blocker side was also very vulnerable this season but I think a good few of those goals were due to tip-ins and deflections. Same goes for his high glove and blocker side, the former not being as bad as I thought it would be, though. He didn’t allow much through the five-hole and was solid at not allowing too many goals resulting from a scramble in front of the net. Also, when looking at the goals he gave up this year, the defense in front of him may be more to blame than Varly.

1. Matt Hunwick wrist shot from the blue-line beats Varlamov high stick side. Heavy screen in front of the net.
2.  5-on-4. Patrice Bergeron sends a pass down low to Michael Ryder who is standing right in the crase and beats Varlamov short side with a snap shot.
3. Jordan Caron comes gliding into the slot untouched and fires a quick wrister that beats Varlamov high glove.
4. 5-on-4. Nathan Horton scores on a slapshot from deep in the slot that beats Varlamov five-hole. Looked like he got a piece of it at first but it got through. Big screen by Milan Lucic in front of the net.
5. 5-on-4. One timer from Zdeno Chara beats Varlamov high glove.
6. Deflection. Slap pass by Joni Pitkanen is tipped directly into the net by Sergei Samsonov who is completely uncovered in front of the net.
7. 5-on-4. Scramble. Centering pass by Jeff Skinner is poked away by Alzner but the lose puck is put home by Eric Staal right at the side of the crease.
8. Erik Cole receives a centering pass from Eric Staal and he beats Varlamov five-hole on a quick play.
9. 6-on-5. Eric Staal scores on a back-hander from right in front of the net that beats Varlamov high stick side.

1. Deflection in front. Alex Steen scores Varlamov on a soft wrister from outside the face-off circle that hit John Carlson in front and beat Varlamov glove side.
2. Deflection. Long shot by Dustin Byfuglien is tipped in by Rich Peverley, who was screening Varlamov in the process.
3. Alexander Burmistrov gets in alone on Varlamov and beats him top shelf after the Caps lose a battle along the boards.
4. 5-on-4. Andrew Ladd is left all alone at the corner of the net and puts home a one-timer past Varlamov’s left pad.
5. Scramble. Varlamov makes two saves and the defense can not control the rebound which is is put home by Michael Frolik.
6. Varlamov makes the initial save off Stephen Weiss, rebound goes right back into play and Weiss’ second shot goes off the post and goes right to Steve Bernier who scores on an empty net. Defenseman (Hannan?) crashed into Varlamov on the second goal.
7. 5-on-4. Varlamov goes out to challenge Mike Santorelli who makes a curl and drag move that completely fakes out Varlamov and he scores a lay-up. Suspect.
8. Varlamov tries to handle what looks like a centering attempt by Brandon Prust but he loses it and it leaks through. May have gone off Poti’s skate. Suspect.
9. Long wrist shot from Artem Anisimov beats Varlamov high glove. No screen in front or anything. Bad goal.
10. 5-on-4. Deflection. Shot from Marc Staal from an angle is tipped in by Marian Gaborik. Varlamov appeared to have it at first glance but it got through.
11. Long shot by Brandon Dubinsky beats Varlamov glove side. No screen in front and Varlamov’s reaction was slow. Bad goal.
12. 4-on-5. 2-on-1. Varlamov comes out of his net to challenge Staal and is faked out completely and Staal scores on an open net. Suspect..but Varly had no other choice there.
13. Ryan Callahan receives a quick pass in front of the net by Brandon Dubinsky and beats Varlamov low glove side on a quick play.
14. 2-on-1. Ryan Callahan scores on a wrist shot from the slot that beats Varlamov high stick side.
15. 5-on-4. Shot by Cam Fowler from the point is deflected on net and put hom by Joffrey Lupul as he beats Varlamov glove side.
16. Ryan Getzlaf is able to break free of defenders and fire a wrist shot from inside the face-off circle that beats Varlamov stick side.
17. 2-on-1. Jussi Jokinen beats Varlamov glove side on a quick wrister after the Caps were caught on a bad line change.
18. Deflection. Shot from inside the face-off circle by Jay Harrison is deflected in by Tuommo Ruutu who screened Varlamov.

1. Evgeni Malkin beats Varlamov five-hole on a breakaway after the Caps made a bad line change.
2. Varlamov makes a save off Vinny Lecavalier but gives up a huge rebound that is put home by Martin St. Louis. Bad.
3. Dimitry Kulikov’s slap pass goes right to Mike Santorelli who is right in front of the net and scores on a tap in.
4. 6-on-5. Cross-crease pass is deflected on net by David Booth, Varlamov gives up a juicy rebound and Evgeny Dadanov beats him by the right pad. Suspect.
5. Scramble. Varlamov makes two saves on as the Caps fail to clear the puck in the crease and it is eventually put in by Dominic Moore.
6. Varlamov makes the initial save on a long shot by Victor Hedman but Sean Bergenheim tips in the rebound out of mid-air.
7. 2-on-0. Gagne fires a wrister that beats Varlamov high stick side after the Caps made a bad play at the blue line.
8. Alex Edler scores on a one-timer from way past the face-off circle. May have been a screened by Jeff Schultz but the shot looked stoppable. Suspect.
9. 5-on-4. Christian Ehrhoff beats Varlamov five-hole with a huge slapshot from the point.
10. Daniel Sedin beats Varlamov blocker side after a brutal turnover in the neutral zone.
11. Claude Giroux makes a couple of moves and puts a wrister behind Varlamov. Defense left him hang out to dry on this one.
12. Andrej Meszaros wrist shot from the point beats Varlamov low glove side with no screen in front. Suspect.
13. Snap shot by Nik Antropov from the slot beats Varlamov glove side.

1. 2-on-1. Slap shot by Brian Gionta from inside face-off circle beats Varlamov blocker side.
2. Breakaway goal by Brian Gionta from right in front of the net beats Varlamov blocker side.
3. Wrist shot from Teddy Purcell past the face-off circle and at a sharp angle beats Varlamov’s left pad. Shot looked like it had little power on it and should have been stopped. Bad goal.
4. 5-on-4. Deflection. Shot from inside the face-off cicle by Teddy Purcell is tipped in by Brett Clark. Varlamov made a quick reaction to try and make the save but couldn’t come up with it.
5. Varlamov poke checks away a shot that was put on net by Wayne Simmonds but the lose puck is put in by Anze Kopitar.
6. Odd-man rush. Varlamov makes the first save on a breakaway shot by Kyle Clifford, sturggles with the rebound and Andrei Loktinov beats  him five-hole. Suspect because rebound went right into the slot.
7. Scramble. Varlamov makes the save on Wayne Simmonds but Michal Handzus is able to put the lose puck into the net after the Caps can’t get to it.
8. 2-on-1. Jarred Stoll receives a cross-crease pass from Justin Williams and scores on a one-timer that beats Varlamov high glove.
9. 5-on-4. Caps are unable to control a lose puck and Ryan Getzlaf back-hands it past Varlamov blocker side.
10. Deflection. Saku Koivu’s shot from the slot is deflected by Teemu Selanne past Varlamov’s right shoulder.
11. Toni Lydman’s shot from outside the face-off circle somehow beats Varlamov five-hole. Heavy screen in front by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry but the shot didn’t have much power on it at all. Bad goal.
12. 5-on-4. Slap shot from point by Jason Pominville beats Varlamov high blocker side. No screen or anything in front of him. Bad.
13. Centering pass by Jason Spezza is poked away by Varlamov but Colin Greening comes barrling into the crease and knocks the loose puck in.
14. Wrist shot by Erik Condra beats Valramov five-hole. Very slow reaction time by Varlamov on the shot. Bad.
15. 5-on-4. Jussi Jokinen connects on a centering pass right in front of the net and beats Varlamov low blocker side.
16. Jeff Skinner’s shot from a very sharp angle beats Varlamov short side. Disgusting.
17. 5-on-4. David Booth scores on a quick one-timer that beats Varlamov glove side.
18. Slap pass by Sergei Samsonov is tapped in by Mike Santorelli who was skating near the crease when the puck came to him.

Feel like I wrote the words “screen” and “turnover” more times than I would like. Here’s the tally for the type of goals:

Minutes Good Bad Suspect Total
Varlamov 1557 43 8 7 58

Only about 14% of the goals he gave up were bad and the only truly atrocious one was the Skinner shot from an awful angle which somehow snuck by him. There were a few that could have gone either way, though as I labeled 12% of the goals as “suspect.” The Santorelli goal was because Varlamov got over-aggressive and I really th0ught the Edler goal should have been stopped but other than those and a few others which I labeled, there weren’t too many ugly goals for Varlamov this year. Would that remain the same if he was healthy the entire year and played in more games? That’s unknown for now but the Avalanche clearly got themselves a great goalie here. Is he worth giving up the first round pick they gave up? Not if his injury problems continue.


– Varlamov sort of reminds me of Kari Lehtonen. I know people aren’t going to like the sound of that but keep in mind that Lehtonen was a former first round pick and his career has kind of a black mark on it because he’s injury prone. However, he was healthy for most of this season and put up a .930 save percentage at even strength and nearly helped a bad Dallas Stars team get to a playoff spot. Can Varlamov do that with an Avalanche team that people are saying will be destined for a lottery pick next season? We shall see. He was able to keep the Caps in a lot of games this season an even stole a few wins this year, too. The biggest problem with him appears to be that he is prone to be beaten glove side more than anything else and teams are going to figure that out. Varlamov’s reaction time was also kind of slow in a few cases this year too. There were a few goals that he gave up because he didn’t judge a shot correctly and couldn’t make the adjustment in time. That said, his rebound control is very solid, he’s capable of making big saves to bail out the defense and he doesn’t allow too many garbage goals for the most part. Definitely capable of being a #1 goalie but he’s still got to show to me that he can play a full season before I put him in a class with Pekka Rinne or Carey Price. The numbers he put up were impressive and his play backed it up for sure I will still root for him even though his tenure in DC sort of ended on a bad note.

Next Goalie: Tomas Vokoun


One Response to Goalie Analysis: Semyon Varlamov

  1. Ryan Fairbarn says:

    This is very interesting information you have put together. I was wondering where you get your data from? I have a few hockey websites myself and am interested in learning more about your goalie stats and incorporating them into some of my work.

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