Friday, December 9th, 2011. The Colorado Avalanche just finished their three game road trip through Western Canada with three straight losses to divisional opponents.
The Avalanche were last place in the division and were dangerously close to losing what was once a promising season.
11 games have been played since Colorado's flop of a road trip and the Avalanche have won nine of them.
The reason for the success the Avalanche are having right now can be attributed to a lot of things; the team has finally found an identity, the penalty killing is much improved and the big players are starting to play like they are the big players.
Perhaps the most important reason for the recent success that the Avalanche have found is the vast improvement of the play in net.
Over this fantastic 11 game stretch, both Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Semyon Varlamov have done everything that any team can expect out of their goalie and then some.
Giguere helped to steady the team before all hope was lost and allowed the young Avalanche team to remember what things got them off to such a great start and get back to them.
He also allowed Varlamov to rest up and regain his edge. Once Varlamov did that, he has been steady in the crease and given his team a chance to win every night.
No goaltending performance has been better for the Avalanche in this 11 game stretch, or all season for that matter, than Varlamov's performance against the Los Angeles Kings Monday night where he stood on his head all night long to keep the Avalanche in a game that easily could have been a blow out.
The numbers are the things that tell the story the best for these two men between the pipes.
In this stretch, Varlamov is 4-1 with a goals against average of 2.60 and save percentage of .910.
Giguere posted a 5-1 record with a goals against of 2.00 and a .931 save percentage.
Perhaps the best part about all of this is the way the the Avalanche coaching staff has been using their two goalies, allowing them to share the load.
Giguere did have a stretch where he played four straight games, but Varlalmov was allowed to come back in and earn his keep when other coaches might have stayed with the hot hand.
Since both goalies were playing so well, Joe Sacco has decided to use both goalies in an even manner. Giguere started six of the 11 games, and Varlamov has started five of them. It doesn't get much more even than that.
With a more even workload, both Giguere and Varlamov have been able to come into games physically fresh and mentally sharp.
With both of their goalies playing so well, the rest of the team seems to have relaxed in front of them and has really started to get their game plan going.
It's amazing how different the Avalanche have looked in this stretch, but that is what confident goaltending can do for a team.