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Allaire Talks Avalanche Goaltending Revival

Allaire Talks Avalanche Goaltending Revival

This summer François Allaire sat down with InGoal to talk about goalie development at large and what could be done to improve it. Now he’s busy improving the goalie stable in Colorado, and it’s hard to argue with the results.

Contributing writer and TVA Sports anchor Michel Godbout offers the second instalment of their interview.

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Jean-Sebastien Giguere is thriving under new Colorado goalie coach Francois Allaire this season. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is thriving under new Colorado goalie coach Francois Allaire this season. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

A quick look at the NHL’s goalie stats isn’t enough.

In fact a double-take reflex sets in immediately.

Jean-Sébastien Giguère leads the League in both goals-against average (0.67) and save percentage (.981) through three starts.

Not far behind is Semyon Varlamov with a stellar 1.68 goal against and .950 save percentage.

Sure it’s early in the season, but for those who thought Allaire’s teaching techniques were passé – and there are many of you – there could be a heaping plate of crow headed your way. Many of the doubters, mind you, are Leafs fans scalded by Allaire’s tenure with Toronto. He admits it was a tough experience made more difficult by an administration that wanted immediate results and couldn’t think about development.

In hindsight, though, Reimer, Gustavsson, MacDonald and Scrivens have all continued to progress.

Allaire talked about his first talks with Varlamov even before the season began.

“We spoke shortly after I got the job in Colorado and he told me he’d lost his game,” Allaire said. “He felt he wasn’t progressing, sliding back even. Probably because he was trying to do too much. He went up the ladder pretty quick to the NHL and then got traded to the Avalanche, who wanted nothing more than to see him become the number one guy. Last season, some games were supposed to be played by Giguère but they gave them to Semyon hoping to see him bounce back. It had the opposite effect.”

So work with Varlamov began during the summer months. The coach and his goalie spent a week in Switzerland working on fundamentals, solidifying the base. It continued a few weeks later in Montreal, where Giguère joined in.

Semyon Varlamov has been working hard to simplify his play on, and movements to and off, the posts. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

Semyon Varlamov has been working hard to simplify his play on, and movements to and off, the posts. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

“Varly has always been a hard worker, good ethics, he just needed tweaking,” Allaire said.

So Allaire gave Varlamov some tools, including more routine drills to do, such as movements from post to post during wrap-around plays. The routine and the repetition makes the moves become automatic, that way he could focus on other parts of his game.

“I don’t change goalies, I adapt to their styles and inject some of my techniques to make their game simpler,” Allaire said.

The difference between Varlamov last season and this one is nothing short of remarkable. Of course, the same can be said of the Avalanche as a whole.  The team is playing a much more responsible game, the defense is doing the job too. But lets keep in perspective, with all do respect to the defensemen, the blue-line is not exactly an all-star core except maybe for No.1 pick (2006) Erik Johnson, who seems to be coming into his own.

So it stands to reason the goalies are holding their own, and then some.

It also helps when you have a veteran back-up to settle things down.

In Giguère, Allaire found an old friend, someone who knew his way of doing things but needed to adapt them to his age and his new, less-imposing gear. On that front Allaire was confident it would’t play against Giguère or any other goalie for that matter.

“It won’t have an impact,” Allaire said of the NHL’s push for smaller equipment. “We’ve played in this movie before when they reduced the pad sizes the first time and it didn’t change anything really. The playing level of goalies is just better and that’s what dictates the game. Goalies are simply better now on all fronts, they are much more superior athletes compared to 20 years ago.”

A glance at the stats once gain gives Allaire comments a prophetic sense.

Goalies are off to a killer start, with 15 goalies posting a save percentage of .930 or better through the first month.

As for Allaire, don’t forget his work has been accomplished under the scrutiny of his former pupil, Patrick Roy.

You have to wonder how it is to work for the guy you helped become the goalie of a generation and having him look over you shoulder everyday.

“Pat is the head coach but he lets me do my job,” Allaire said. “He still has input though on the goalies play, but he wanted someone that he could rely on and feel confident with. I think I bring him that level of comfort.”

It’s still early in the season, but so far Allaire has brought that in spades.

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6 Comments

  1. Rick Besharah

    I’m glad to see that both Giguere & Varlamov have bounced back so well this year under Francois Allaire’s direction. Although early in the season, I can’t say that I ever doubted the capabilities of hockey’s goaltending guru.

    This a primary example of how keeping one’s game simple through proper positioning, & timing, along with remaining compact & reacting to shots which are directed to the outside, can be beneficial to a goaltender’s game at the most elite levels of play.

    Having worked with and trained with Francois Allaire for 14 years, I can say that his technical training methods are the best there are, as focus is placed on theory, balance, technique, and repetition. Most goaltending clinics and schools have the theory that training quickly and hard for an hour on the ice, will benefit goaltenders more, as they may have the opportunity to do more movements and stop more pucks. Although there is some truth to this, training smart is always going to produce better results.

    As goaltenders gain an understanding of the theory involved with their movements of each exercise, they begin to add speed and explosiveness with their movements. Allaire ensures that his students do not over train as he wants them to be rested for every exercise in order to ensure that they get the most of every motion within the crease during his sessions. He promotes staying square to the puck and timing as the primary keys to success. This allows goaltenders to place as much mass between the puck and the net in almost every situation in order to control, or avoid rebounds through absorption.

    In contrast to statements made in the past about his methods being obsolete, Allaire’s 5-S System is one of the easiest and most efficient methods to learn, and apply for all ages and levels of goaltenders in hockey.

    More about Allaire’s 5-S System can be seen at http://www.francoisallaire.com

    Reply
    • Cynthia Brown

      Thank you for the link. I’m hoping it will benefit my boys.

      Reply
  2. Warren Shapiro

    Well it takes 2 goaltending teachers to turn around (Roy, Allaire) to turn a franchise, Take note NHL maybe this can be a start of something big.

    Reply
  3. Matt in Montreal

    Yeah, that’s all good and everything but when the heck’s the Ritual G2 reviews coming?

    Reply
  4. Paul Ipolito

    Good to see this for all of the main characters. Very early on, but I also have been an Allaire proponent for years and my guess is the Toronto issue had more to do with the Toronto media and the blowhard GM and Coach he was working for. Everything that went sour in Leafland was always someone else’s fault. The Maple Leaf approach to goaltending has pretty much been the hockey equivalent of making sausage.

    Reply

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