On Tuesday, Semyon Varlamov turned in one of the greatest goaltending performances of the season making 54 saves in a shutout victory. As such, we look back at the top 10 goalie games of the 2014-15 so far, topped by a record-setting performance that should stand for some time.
The way Semyon Varlamov played on Tuesday night, you’d have to think the puck looked like a beach ball to the Colorado Avalanche netminder.
With 54 saves in a shutout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, Varlamov not only posted one of the best performances of this season, he posted one of the best in Avalanche history. He became only the fourth Avs goalie to ever make 50 stops in a game, and one of only four netminders with 54-plus saves in a shutout victory since 1995.
The incredible feat of puck stopping isn’t enough to take top spot on this list of the 10 greatest mid-season goaltending performances, however. That spot goes to a very special game that a certain San Jose Sharks netminder will never forget.
10. Varlamov turns aside 49 pucks in shootout loss – Oct. 28, 2014
Hard to believe Varlamov has faced 50-plus shots in more than one game this season, but it happened all the way back in the first few weeks of the 2014-15 season. With the San Jose Sharks in town, Varlamov was peppered with 51 pucks, and only two would slide by him.
The Avalanche offense wasn’t entirely futile, putting 33 shots on goal and slipping two pucks past Antti Niemi, but it wasn’t enough, as the Sharks took a 3-2 victory on the strength of a Joe Pavelski shootout winner.
9. Jonathan Bernier stymies Canucks to lead Buds to big win – Dec. 6, 2014
Bernier has become the starter in Toronto, and for good reason. He’s been the last line of defense for a team that has needed it, and he’s come up big at the right times. Due to that, there are a few Maple Leafs games that appear on this list (the next performance, for instance), and one more from Bernier later on.
December was a pretty tough month for Toronto, but it was a little easier on the night Bernier made 44 stops and the Maple Leafs went on to a 5-2 victory over the visiting Canucks.
8. James Reimer backstops Leafs to win over Blackhawks – Nov. 1, 2014
As you may have noticed, with the way the Maple Leafs have played this season – and in recent years, for that matter – a lot of the onus falls on the goaltenders to put up some incredible games. Reimer did exactly that in the early season showdown with the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
Reimer showed off his stuff to hometown fans and sent the Air Canada Centre crowd home happy, as he stopped 45 of the 47 shots that came his way and Peter Holland’s early third period tally was enough for the Leafs to secure a 3-2 win.
7. Sergei Bobrovsky turns aside 50-plus in win over Panthers – Dec. 4, 2014
The Florida Panthers have been one of the league’s most improved teams, and it looked like they were well on their way to a drubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets in an early December outing. Thankfully, the Blue Jackets had the help of Bobrovsky to help turn the tide.
In a game in which the Blue Jackets mustered only 20 shots, three of which found the back of the net, Bobrovsky blocked 52 pucks. Though he allowed three goals, his effort was enough to force overtime and pick up a shootout victory over Florida.
6. Bernier’s December performance capped with win over Stars – Dec. 23, 2014
Bernier is back on the list, and this time in shutout fashion.
Before heading for the holiday break, the Dallas Stars hosted the Maple Leafs and it was one of those games where the home team does everything but score. The Stars put 43 pucks on Bernier and he turned each one aside. Little did Nazem Kadri know that his first period goal, just 55 seconds into the game, would be enough for the Leafs to win.
5. Jonathan Quick gives Los Angeles every single save they need – Oct. 16, 2014
The Los Angeles Kings are a confounding team at times. They dominate possession and can seemingly turn on the offense whenever they’d like, but on some nights, they couldn’t score to save their lives. Oct. 16 was one of those nights, but thankfully Quick looked like the world-class netminder he can be.
Quick stopped 43 shots for the 1-0 shootout and shutout victory over the St. Louis Blues, and Jeff Carter scored the shootout winner.
4. Steven Mason sinks Isle with shutout heroics – Nov. 24, 2014
Yet another 1-0 shootout win makes the list, but it’s the losing goaltender who gets the accolades. Jaroslav Halak was steady for the New York Islanders and turned away 21 shots for the shutout shootout victory, but he was nothing compared to his counterpart, as Philadelphia Flyers netminder Mason was unbeatable in regulation and overtime, stopping 46 shots.
It was one of those games where Mason’s teammates likely would have done anything if they could have just mustered one, measly goal to get Mason the win, too. It was not to be, however, and Mason had to settle for an incredible performance in a heart breaking loss.
3. Jonas Hiller baffles Blackhawks in overtime win – Oct. 15, 2014
In 2012-13, the lockout shortened season, you may recall the game in which Ray Emery somehow stole a win for the Chicago Blackhawks in a game against the Calgary Flames. Emery made 45 saves, and the Blackhawks went on to a 3-2 shootout win, with their netminder turning aside all three shooters in the shootout.
Hiller wasn’t a Flame at the time, but he got a certain measure of revenge, at least for Flames fans. With the Flames visiting the United Center, Hiller faced a barrage of shots, and turned away 49 of 50, the only goal coming late in the third period when Andrew Shaw scored on the power play. The Flames ended things in overtime, though, when with less than 30 seconds left to go in the extra frame, Mikael Backlund scored an OT-winner to lift Calgary past Chicago by a final score of 2-1.
2. Varlamov stops 54 in shutout win over Blackhawks – Jan. 6, 2015
There’s little more that can be said about this game other than, “Wow.”
Varlamov was key in helping the Avalanche stay competitive last season, and if it weren’t for his play, the team likely would have fallen out of playoff contention instead of holding onto one of the top spots in the Western Conference. This season the puck luck is going the other way on the Avalanche, but when Varlamov turns in moments of brilliance like this, it’s hard to imagine anyone could beat him.
1. Troy Grosenick makes NHL debut, sets modern day record – Nov. 16, 2014
There’s no topping Grosenick’s performance, simply because there are too many factors at work. It was Grosenick’s first NHL appearance, so his nerves would have been a factor. It was a game on the road, which is always a bit more difficult. He earned a contract with the team as an undrafted free agent. The San Jose Sharks played terribly in front of him, and Grosenick was forced by the Carolina Hurricanes to make 45 saves. Those 45 saves were a shutout. And that shutout was a record, as he became only the 22nd goalie in league history to debut with a blank sheet and made the most saves for a shutout debut in the modern era.
Unfortunately, the celebration (and it was a good one, with his parents in attendance and a bit of jubilation from the netminder) was short-lived, as Grosenick played in just one more game before being sidelined by an injury. On Dec. 9, he was sent down to the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester, but his performance will live in the history books for a while.