The Colorado Avalanche season has not started the way most fans were hoping, as the team has gone 1-3-1 and didn’t score a goal until their third game. The team has been rather lackluster, seemingly uninterested, have no chemistry, and has struggled to find consistent play. But after being shut out in their first two games, their play has gotten progressively better as the team has been more competitive in their past three games. Now things have taken a turn for the worse.
Avalanche Goaltending Crisis: Varlamov and Berra Out
News on October 16th was that starting goalie Semyon Varlamov, Vezina trophy runner-up last year and arguably the team MVP last season, was going to be moved to IR due to a minor groin issue. This is expected to be a short stint as the injury is not major, but he would not be available to be activated for 7 days. Backup goalie Reto Berra was going to fill in during his absence. Most fans were eager to see Berra play as he put up solid numbers in the preseason, and then had a stellar game against Boston earlier in the week allowing only one goal on 28 shots and earning the teams only win this year.
However disaster also struck for Berra. It was early in the game against Ottawa last night, only about two minutes in, when Berra was involved in a goal crease collision with Kyle Turris of the Senators and his own teammate, John Mitchell. The collision sent Berra flying backwards, snapping his head back, and hitting the ice. He would not return to the game.
Enter Calvin Pickard, who was called up from Lake Erie that morning. Pickard up until last night had never played in an NHL game, and it showed. He looked shaky at best letting in three or four questionable goals. But in fairness he only showed up 15 minutes before the game and wasn’t expected to sniff the ice. So Pickard did the best he could with little preparation.
Now it has been reported that goaltender Sami Aittokallio, the other goaltender for Lake Eire has been called up as well, with forward Dennis Everberg being sent down to Lake Erie. This means Berra’s injury is significant enough that he may not be able to suit up for the next game on Saturday against Montreal, and possibly longer. Aittokallio at least does have some NHL experience, albeit very minimal experience (2 games in the last 2 years).
So over the past 24 hours the Avs had their top two goalies get injured, and have had to replace them with two AHL goalies. Goaltending went from something most fans and management felt very comfortable with to something that absolutely nobody feels comfortable with. And this is no slight on either Pickard or Aittokallio, they are being forced into a position no one expected, especially only five games into the new season.
The Avs season is already at a crossroads. It’s clear that both of their top goalies are likely going to miss some games, and in a tough Western Conference you can’t afford to fall too far behind in the standings. If the Avs expect to have a shot to make the playoffs they are going to have to play as a team, to try to alleviate some pressure off the inexperienced goalies. And hopefully they can eek out some much needed points while their top two goalies are on the mend.
If the Avs can’t play strong defensive team game, things could get ugly fast in the mile high city. There has been no word which of the two inexperienced goalies will get the start in Montreal. No matter who it is, the experienced players on the team are going to need to step up big time.
For the latest in sports injury news, check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert.
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