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Avs' Roy pushes Semyon Varlamov for Hart Trophy consideration

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Semyon Varlamov received some high praise from his head coach. (USATSI)
Semyon Varlamov received some high praise from his head coach. (USATSI)

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This is the time of year where teams start stumping for their guys to win this award or that in the NHL. The individual awards are given out based on regular-season performance, so hitting the Pro Hockey Writers' Association and other various voting bodies for select awards with some facts is never a bad thing to give one player or another a boost.

Patrick Roy isn't leaving the campaigning to the marketing staff though. The Colorado Avalanche head coach went out on a big limb for Semyon Varlamov after his club's shootout win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

Via Avalanche.com:

"I'm happy for him," Roy said. "I appreciate what he's been doing since the start of the year. There was a lot of question marks in the summer, and I think he has responded well. He works so hard. He was really determined to turn things around and play with consistency, and that's what he's been doing.

"He's giving us a chance to win, but it's more now than just a chance to win. He's a difference-maker right now. He's pretty impressive. In my opinion right now, he should be a candidate for the Hart Trophy [NHL MVP]. That's as high as I think of him right now."

Roy has eyes on bigger things than the Vezina Trophy apparently. On its face, it sounds a little nutty, but when it comes to a player's value to his team, there's no question Varlamov is one of the key factors in what the Avalanche have done this season.

The fact that the Avs have been a relatively subpar possession team this year with an average defensive corps, Varlamov has seen a lot of action. He has posted a .926 save percentage while compiling 39 wins. Varlamov is just one shy of Roy's franchise record of 40 wins in a single season. The current Avalanche head coach accomplished that feat in the 2000-01 season en route to Colorado winning the Stanley Cup for a second time.

Odds are the Hart Trophy is going to Sidney Crosby. It's hard to imagine any scenario in which the league's leading scorer doesn't get it this year. He has been dragging around a two-line team all year and has been the one constant in a sea of injuries for the Penguins.

On top of that, only six goaltenders have won the Hart Trophy in the award's 90-year history. Jose Theodore was the most recent masked man to claim the league's top individual honor, having posted a .931 save percentage in 2001-02 for the Canadiens. Dominik Hasek won it in 1997 and '98 while with the Sabres, putting up a save percentage of .930 or better in both seasons.

That .930 threshold is probably a good benchmark for where goalies start getting considered for the Hart. There just so happens to be one starter this season with more than 50 appearances who meets that criteria -- Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins.

Varlamov leads the league in wins, which is nice, but shouldn't be a big difference-making number in postseason awards voting (though I would expect voters to value it higher than it should be). The Avalanche goaltender is fifth in save percentage among qualifying goalies and 23rd in goals-against average.

Roy's comments may not be entirely outlandish as Varlamov's value to Colorado is undisputed. One separating factor that makes Varlamov's performance so remarkable this season is the fact that he has seen more shots than any goalie in the league at this point while carrying an awfully heavy wor load and has still put up strong numbers.

There is a difference between a team MVP and the league MVP, however. Varlamov is having a great year, but it's not quite at Hart level in a year where there are many deserving candidates and one clear-cut favorite.

This isn't a bad way for Roy to pump his starter's tires heading into what is sure to be a very tough road in the postseason, though.

 
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