Goaltending was a strength for the New York Islanders in 2018-19. With Semyon Varlamov as the de facto starter, can it be again? What can we expect from Varlamov in 2019-20?
New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello allowed Vezina trophy finalist Robin Lehner to leave through free agency in July. In Lehner’s place, Lou brought in NHL veteran starter Semyon Varlamov.
What should we expect from a goalie that averaged a 0.909SV% and 2.87GAA in 49 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season?
Can Varlamov fill the void left by Robin Lehner better the pipes?
What Is He?
Before trying to figure out what we can expect from him it’s important to establish what he is. Over his eleven-year NHL career, Varlamov has a 0.916SV% and 2.68GAA. In 448 games played over his career, he carries a 213-169-50 record with 25 shutouts.
His single best season was 2013-14 when he finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting and second in Vezina voting thanks to a 0.927SV% and 2.41GAA in 63 games played with 41 wins.
His single worst season was 2016-17 when he averaged a 0.898SV% and 3.02GAA in 24 games played. His season was cut short due to a hip injury that had him miss the last 40 games of the season.
Between that best and worst season, Varlamov has accumulated three other seasons with a save percentage above 0.919 and another three under a 0.910 save percentage. Goalies are consistently inconsistent and Varlamov is no exception.
With that in mind, it’s going to be hard to set any expectations for Varlamov. Not only is he consistently inconsistent, but we also have no idea how he’ll mesh in the Barry Trotz system.
The system was beneficial for both Lehner and Greiss who bounced back from terrible seasons in 2017-18 to finish with near Vezina levels of play the very next season. The same outcome could be true for Varlamov.
Expecting that would be foolish though. What is fair to expect is that he plays to his career average. A 0.916SV% and 2.68GAA wouldn’t be terrible numbers for the Islanders. We know the Islanders will have to sacrifice some of their league-leading defense from last season to create some offense this season.
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Meaning the goalies will certainly take a step back from their impeccable 2018-19 season. And that a 0.916SV% season from Varlamov should be just fine. With the league average at 0.910SV% last season, an average Varlamov season would still have the Islanders in the top half for goaltending.