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Colorado Avalanche Still Undecided on Backup Goalie Position

In the modern NHL, teams place a lot more importance on possessing two capable goaltenders than ever before. That said, the Colorado Avalanche backup goalie job still remains very much undecided. Alexandar Georgiev owns the starting job with a high degree of certainty, but behind him things remain in question. This seems counterintuitive, since they’ve only played two goalies to-date. Their utilization of their current duo says it all, though.

Colorado Avalanche Still Undecided on Backup Goalie Position

Currently, Georgiev leads the league in games played. That reflects less on him, though, and more on the team’s lack of confidence in their current backup. After all, Georgiev sports just a .901 save percentage despite starting over 75% of the team’s games thus far. Rather than “riding the hot hand”, as many teams do, the Avs are riding their one and only hand, it looks.

Avs Without their Usual Number Two Goalie

Behind Georgiev, Colorado expected Pavel Francouz to serve as the team’s number two goalie for a fifth straight season. However, he began the year on long-term injured reserve with a groin injury. Since then, the only update came as an even more unfortunate one: Francouz will miss all of the 2023-24 season with his injury.

That tough piece of news reminded everyone of 2020-21, when the netminder also missed the full campaign due to injury. Considering 2023-24 represents the final year of his contract, the Avalanche backup goalie job looks available for the taking.

Current Goalie Depth for Avalanche Backup Position

At the beginning of the year, head coach Jared Bednar indicated he felt comfortable entering the season with 23-year-old Justus Annunen serving as their number two. Annunen inked a one-year deal to stay with the Avs, who drafted him 64th overall back in 2018. His only four career appearances all came with Colorado across the first three years of his entry level deal.

Then on October 9th, the team claimed Ivan Prosvetov off of waivers from the Arizona Coyotes. Subsequently, Annunen dropped down to the AHL. Prosvetov didn’t bring much extra experience with him, though. After all, he’s only one year older than Annunen, with just 13 games played for Arizona prior to his arrival in Denver.

Prosvetov’s 2023-24 Resume

That lack of track record appears to be limiting his opportunities thus far in the regular season, too. As mentioned, Georgiev receives almost every game to-date. Behind him, Prosvetov started only four contests, going 2-1-1 in those games. Despite the small sample size, his numbers do look strong on paper at least.

Prosvetov currently holds a .919 save percentage and 2.45 goals against average. His quality start percentage sits at .750 as well, indicating he’s performing admirably thus far. His starts all came against teams who either missed the postseason the last few years, or at least sat outside the playoff picture this year at the time of the game.

So not only is Colorado limiting Prosvetov’s appearances, they’re also only giving him favourable matchups. While Georgiev faces foes like Vegas and Dallas, Prosvetov draws opponents like Anaheim and Calgary. No disrespect to those teams; an NHL squad is an NHL squad. But, surely the drop-off stands out for what the Avalanche backup goalie receives matchup-wise.

Georgiev Owning Avs’ Net, Despite Some Shakiness

Interestingly enough, Georgiev remains embedded in the starting job even with his mediocre performance. His recent stretch looks better, but he already turned in seven games in which he allowed four or more goals against. His quality start percentage sits at just .476, despite a solid 14-6-1 record overall.

The record and his statistics show a significant disparity, which exists because the Avs remain entirely capable of simply outscoring their opponents. In those seven games of four-plus goals against, Colorado managed to bail out Georgiev enough to pick up two wins and force another game to overtime, at least.

In fairness to Georgiev, his goals against sits only 1.49 below expected. That means he should have roughly three fewer goals against in total, based on shot volume and quality against. Meanwhile, the Avalanche backup goalie Prosvetov sits 2.12 above expected.

Potential Future Options

At the end of the day, statistics only tell so much of the story. Colorado wants to keep their top-guy confident, and likely hope he finds his game with the rhythm of starts they continue feeding him. Bednar indicated previously that he does eventually plan to give Georgiev some rest, but prefers to do it in a successive stretch.

That could line up an extended opportunity for Prosvetov, perhaps allowing him four or more consecutive starts. That might provide the true test Colorado needs to determine whether they’ve solved the backup goalie crisis on the Avalanche roster.

But if not, or if Prosvetov fails to seize any chance he receives, Colorado could wind up seeking a goaltender at the trade deadline or sooner. They know the importance of having two capable goalies; Francouz started games in multiple rounds of the playoffs back when they won the Cup with Darcy Kuemper two seasons ago. General Manager Joe Sakic will evaluate his options, and likely already is formulating some potential game plans should worst come to worst.

Main Photo: Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports


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