To say that New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov was off to a hot start would be an understatement. After an off-season where Ilya Sorokin was touted as the best goaltender in the league (and he still may be), it's been Varlamov who has been playing like a Vezina Trophy winner during this early season.
Varlamov now has an active shutout streak of 137:20 after 32 save performance in the Islanders' 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. It was Varly's 40th career shutout, which is third most amongst active goaltenders and pushed ahead of Tommy Salo for fourth on the team's all-time shutout list with 15. The 35-year-old net-minder is second in the league in both save percentage (.972) and goals-against-average (1.00) behind only another New York backup, Jonathan Quick of the Rangers.
In every sport, small sample sizes lead to names and numbers at the top of statistics that will not resemble the final stat leaders at the season's end. However, some advanced stats jump out because Varlamov is outpacing goalies in statistics that are aggregations aided by the number of games a goaltender has played during the season.
As of this morning, Varlamov is the league leader in goals saved above expected per MoneyPuck with 8.8; that's 0.3 more than Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks, who has played seven games and 1.1 more of Boston Bruins' goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who has appeared in five games. He's also tops in goals saved above expected per 60 with 2.948 after saving 4.4 GSAx on Thursday.
There's no ambiguity as to who the Islanders No. 1 goaltender is both now and in the future after Sorokin signed an eight-year extension during the summer. Varlamov is content being the backup to his close friend and loves Long Island and the organization enough to ink a four-year deal of his own rather than pursue No. 1 goaltending opportunities elsewhere around the league.
He's been playing on a one-week-a-game pace thus far this season, but given how confident he looks at the moment, it's certainly possible that Lane Lambert finds an additional spot or two while he is performing at the top of his game.