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.
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.“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.