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Islanders Semyon Varlamov having better season than you thought

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on February 15, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on February 15, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /
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Through 18 games this season New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov is averaging a 0.927SV% and 2.06GAA. He’s started all but four of those 18 games for the Islanders, holding an 8-4-2 record in those 14 starts.

Varlamov ranks fifth for goalies in save-percentage, fourth in goals against average, first in shutouts (tied with Marc-Andre Fleury at three), and is tied for fourth for wins with eight. All of these stats are across all situations and for goalies who’ve started at least ten games.

(All stats from NHL.com)

That’s already good and certainly puts him in the conversation for the Vezina. Though I’m not sure he wins it, he’s surely in the top five. But it gets better than that for Varlamov.

New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov not in the top 10 for GSAx

Yesterday, hockey data-analyst JFresh published a list of the top ten goalies for goals saved above expected. As the name suggests these are the top ten goalies in the league for goals stopped above what is expected of them based on the shots they’ve faced (in all situations). And Varlamov isn’t on the list.

How is that a good thing? Right?

It means that Varalmov’s Vezina level stats aren’t a result of him performing better than is expected of him. His performance this year isn’t some sort of fluke. This is the real Semyon Varlamov.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Through the first half of the 2019-20 season, Varly held a 0.920SV% and 2.21GAA. Those results were again visible in the playoffs where Varalmov held a 0.921SV% and 2.14GAA in 20 games (19 starts) as the Isles marched to the Eastern Conference Finals and two wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

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There was some skepticism thrown towards Varlamov when the Islanders acquired him through free agency rather than retaining fan favorite Robin Lehner. The former was a Vezina finalist while Varlamov was coming off a down year in Colorado with a 20-19-9 record and averaging a 0.909SV% and 2.87GAA. But it seems to have worked out for the Isles after all.

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