From now until the foreseeable future, it looks like the Colorado Avalanche are prepared to go all-in with Semyon Varlamaov. The goalie will see the lion’s share of ice time with the Avalanche after goalie Calvin Pickard was returned to the AHL on Sunday (along with forward Dennis Everberg).
What’s more, head coach Patrick Roy said after practice that goalie Reto Berra would have to earn his playing time and will have the “first chance to prove himself” after Varlamov. To make matters more interesting for Berra, Roy added that he was lucky the 22-year-old Pickard wasn’t a couple years older. The implication there was that it was Pickard, not Berra, who was Roy’s top choice for a backup.
Any “goaltending controversy” in Colorado came to the fore when Varlamov missed 17 games with groin problems. He picked up a 5-0 win when he returned to action on Tuesday and subsequently stepped back into the top slot, with Berra as the backup and Pickard having earned the support of Avalanche fans for the future.
And boy, did Pickard earn it. He played to a 6-6-2 record in 14 games with Colorado and posted a 2.21 goals against average with a third-best .934 save percentage.
Berra, on the other hand, posted a 2-2-1 record with a 3.57 goals against average and a .882 save percentage. Pickard replaced him in the first frame of his last two starts in November and Berra hasn’t played since December 5 when he was put in to relieve Varlamov against the Winnipeg Jets.
So as of right now, the plan is for Berra to shoulder the load behind Varlamov and for Pickard to get more conditioning in the AHL and see more rubber than he would hanging around the pine. That’s as good a plan as any and it certainly solidifies the notion that Roy prefers Pickard to Berra in just about every way.
“I thought he (Pickard) played well, it’s just the situation we’re in,” Roy said. “Varly’s a hundred percent and we’re going to play him a lot. Period. I talked to him yesterday, this morning, and he said he’s a hundred percent. This is an important stretch for us. We need to win some hockey games to get back in that playoff race. It’s not in March we have to make a decision on that, it’s right now.”