In each of their seven games this season, the Colorado Avalanche have turned to Alexandar Georgiev to get the job done in net.
On Sunday, it sounds like they’re going to go right back to Georgiev against the Buffalo Sabres, despite the Avalanche netminder having given up four goals in each of his last three starts. It’s certainly not been all on Georgiev, but he hasn’t been at the top of his game.
With Pavel Francouz injured for an indefinite period of time, there are real question marks behind Georgiev in Colorado. Justus Annunen had a great training camp and preseason, but has all of four games of NHL experience. Ivan Prosvetov, who the Avalanche claimed on waivers earlier this month, has played just 14 NHL games, one of which came on Thursday, when he came in for eight minutes of garbage time action against the Penguins.
Yes, you don’t really know what you have until you give them a legitimate shot, but it’s understandable why Jared Bednar would want to ride his number one goaltender for as long as he can. Both of those goaltenders will get their opportunity this year, but the Avalanche don’t seem comfortable turning to either of them just yet.
Fans are concerned that Georgiev is being physically overworked.
I don’t necessarily agree.
The Avalanche have had a very light schedule to start the season. With their game tomorrow, their first eight games will have been spread out over 18 days. There have been no back-to-backs, and they haven’t always been playing every other day. If you go back before the regular season started, there was a six day gap between their final preseason game, and opening night against Los Angeles. There’s been enough time off between games to where I don’t feel like Georgiev is being overworked physically.
If Pavel Francouz was healthy, would Georgiev have started all those games? Not a chance. Francouz would have gotten one, maybe two starts by now. Even then, given the light schedule Colorado has had, I’m not concerned about physical exhaustion with Georgiev at the moment.
My concern is mental exhaustion, because we already saw Georgiev deal with that last season.
Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 10 last year, Georgiev started 12 consecutive games. During that stretch, he was wildly inconsistent. He had six games with a save percentage above .929. In the other six starts, he never got above .893. It was either hot or cold for the Avalanche starter.
The reason he started so many games in a row was because, again, Francouz was injured. When Francouz did return, Bednar started his backup for three straight games. They didn’t turn to Francouz for a week just because they were concerned about running Georgiev into the ground. Just like during this current stretch, Georgiev didn’t start any back-to-backs, and had multiple two-day breaks between games.
So if Bednar wasn’t concerned about him physically holding up, why did he give him a week off?
He wanted Georgiev to have a mental reset.
And it worked.
After that break, Georgiev put up quality starts in seven of his next eight games, and never looked back during the regular season.
“I think we’ve seen, as soon as we give him a mental break, few days off, some rest, all of the sudden he comes back in the net and he’s been fantastic,” Bednar said in January.
If things go poorly on Sunday for the Avalanche, my concern is not that Georgiev is wearing down physically. My concern is that he’s got too much on his plate, and that’s weighing him down. He knows that he is really the only option Colorado has in net at the moment, so it all depends on him. That’s not an ideal situation for any team (or goaltender) to be in.
Sooner or later, the Avalanche will need to give him a night off, and let him take a mental break. By the time Wednesday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues takes place, Prosvetov will have been with the team for three weeks. That’s three weeks of practice time, and three works of working with goaltending guru Jussi Parkkila. You have to see what he can do, and that game seems like the perfect opportunity to put him in.
If the Avalanche start Prosvetov against the Blues, Georgiev will get five days to mentally reset. Perfect timing, because a week from today, the team will be in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights.
They’ll need their starting goaltender at the top of his game, and a break might be exactly what he needs to get there.
A break not just for the body, but for the mind.