It wasn't a bad month for Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov was named to the Russian Olympic Hockey Team, had a 10-1-1 record in January and solidified his long-term future with the Avs organization on the second to last day of the month.
The Samara, Russia native signed a five-year contract extension through the 2018-19 season Thursday, just a few hours before taking the crease and helping Colorado to a win against the Minnesota Wild.
"I think one of the biggest days of my life, happiest. I’m happy," Varlamov said after the game. "I want to say, 'Thank you,' to the whole organization, Colorado Avalanche, to give me a chance to play for this team. Thanks to my teammates. I think they play very well for me. That’s why I signed the contract, because they help me.”
He received help from his teammates against the Wild as the Avs provided plenty of offense by scoring five times, and Varlamov made 31 saves for his 27th victory of the season, setting a career high. His previous career best was 26 wins during his first season with Colorado in 2011-12.
His 10 wins in the first month of 2014 set a franchise record for victories in the month of January and tied the franchise mark for victories in any month. Varlamov is the fourth Avalanche/Nordiques goalie to win 10 games in a single month, joining Craig Anderson (October 2009), Peter Budaj (March 2007) and Dan Bouchard (February 1981).
After finishing the 2012-13 campaign with an 11-21-3 record, a 3.02 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 35 games, Varlamov has had a bounce-back season this year.
He is tied for second among NHL goaltenders in wins with a 27-9-5 mark, has a 2.60 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Varlamov ranks second in the league in saves (1,230) and shots faced (1,331). He is 5-0-1 when facing 40 or more shots this season, the second most wins when facing 40-plus shots behind Toronto's Jonathan Bernier (seven).
“I didn’t think I played that well the first two years [in Colorado]," Varlamov said. "Thank God the right people came to the team during the summer. [Head coach] Patrick [Roy] and especially [goaltending coach] Francois Allaire. Those guys helped me a lot. They changed my game."
The Avalanche hired Allaire last summer, and he immediately began working with Varlamov. Since then the player and coach have been working well together.
"He's been working hard," said Roy of Varlamov. "It's clicking really well between Francois and him. He has a lot of confidence in Francois. … I think it is just a perfect fit for both of them. Varly is putting in a lot of hard work and is being rewarded for it. I'm very happy for him."
Early in the season, Varlamov said how honored he would be if he could play for Team Russia at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and it is his dream to win a gold medal for his home country. That dream is now closer to a reality as he was named to the Russian squad Jan. 7 and has a good chance at winning the starting job in the crease.
With Varlamov's NHL future set, the netiminder can put his attention on helping Russia to a gold medal and the Avalanche on a run to the postseason.
"It's a good thing that we signed the deal right now," he said. "I don't have to worry about the contract situation anymore. Now I can stay focused on my game."
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