The Hart Trophy is annually awarded to the NHL player that is considered to be the most valuable to their team. This award has a long history of going to prolific scorers, and for good reason. Take away the production of guys like Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby and their teams are definitely not anywhere as good, but it’s time to include another name in this conversation, Semyon Varlamov.
With the win against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, Varlamov improved his record to 23-8-5 which ties him for third amongst NHL goalies for wins. Unless something ridiculous happens, Varlamov is poised to be the first Avalanche goalie since 2009-2010, and only the fourth Avalanche goalie since Patrick Roy retired, to win 30 games in a season. Varlamov continues to improve his goal-against numbers and now sits at 2.29 for the season with a save percentage of .929 which is also good for third in the league. We haven’t seen numbers like this from an Avalanche goalie for a long time.
Even more impressive for Varlamov is that he has not lost a game in regulation in his last 15 games (10-0-5). Not only are the Avalanche getting consistently solid performances from him, but he is also making certain that the team is managing to get points. In the super competitive Central Division, getting points every night is an absolute necessity, and he is making sure that that happens for his team.
Another impressive number to consider with Varlamov is the sheer number of shots that he has faced. Varlamov has seen 1164 shots so far this season, which is also third in the NHL. The only two goalies that have seen more rubber than Varlamov are Kari Lehtonen and Mike Smith, both of whom he has beaten with wins, goals against and save percentage. Varlamov have seen 30 or more shots 21 times this season, and has seen 40 or more shots five times.
When you think about the Colorado Avalanche, the names that would generally come up when talking about the team’s MVP are guys like Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, even Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda could come up. There is no doubt that these guys have big impacts on the team, but Varlamov is out-doing everybody right now. The numbers definitely speak for themselves, but when you have a guy that can make the types of saves as the one in the video, against world class players like Patrick Kane, that has a way of energizing your team.
When you think about the kinds of guys that win the Hart Trophy, they are players that have those plays during the course of several games the lift their team and give them the energy to win. It’s a goal, a great pass, a big hit, a great defensive play, or a save that makes the shooter look to the rafters with one simple question, “How?” Varlamov has reached that level in his play and deserves to be recognized for it.
What Are His Chances?
With guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin still lighting up the league, pretty much every other player in the league is starting with an automatic disadvantage. This guys have to be injured, have a really bad season, or somebody must have a truly unbelievable season in order to overcome these guys to win the award. Not to mention, goalies don’t exactly have a long history of bringing home the Hart Trophy. Only six goalies have ever won the Hart Trophy, the most recent of which was Jose Theodore back in 2002.
Despite his fantastic season, it’s hard to picture Varlamov actually winning the Hart Trophy, but seeing the effect that Varlamov has on his team, the consistency with which he is playing, and the fantastic numbers that he has been putting up, Semyon Varlamov absolutely deserves to be strong candidate, if not a finalist, for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast