The 2022-23 season ended much sooner for the Colorado Avalanche than expected. The team faced tons of obstacles – from a seemingly endless run of injuries to a bizarre situation with Valeri Nichushkin – but the first-round exit was a disappointing finish no matter how you slice it.
Despite all the downers, there were some positives that happened along the way. After a bit of an up-and-down start to the season, goaltender Alexandar Georgiev showed that Colorado’s trade for him last offseason was a great move that could pay dividends in the future. Here’s a look at Georgiev’s first season in Denver.
Georgiev Was Virtually Unknown Before Avs
Before the trade that sent him to Colorado, Georgiev was a decent backup goaltender that made more than 30 starts in a season just once. However, you can’t really blame the New York Rangers for having a tough time getting Georgiev meaningful minutes in the crease. During his five seasons with the Rangers, he played second (and sometimes third) fiddle to Vezina Trophy winners Henrik Lundqvist and Igor Shesterkin.
Georgiev was undrafted and played his way onto the Rangers’ roster after an invite to the team’s development camp in 2017. With New York, he had just two playoff appearances under his belt – both in relief of Shesterkin in the 2022 Playoffs. He came to Colorado through a trade last summer that sent three draft picks – none higher than a third – to the Rangers. The Avalanche were in goaltender limbo after last season, with then-netminder Darcy Kuemper leaving in free agency after playing an integral role in the team winning its third Stanley Cup.
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The Avalanche had made moves for goaltenders before, trading for Philipp Grubauer in 2018, and for Kuemper right before the 2021-22 season. Grubauer was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2021, while Kuemper famously hoisted the Cup the following season. It was an interesting move for the champions to take a chance on a goalie that had never been a full-time starter. But with oft-injured Pavel Francouz as the only experienced goaltender on the roster, something had to be done. Enter Georgiev, who put up the best season of his career.
Georgiev Shines in First Season as Starter
One of the biggest questions entering the 2022-23 season was how Georgiev would hold up to the workload of a full-time starter on one of the top contenders in the Western Conference. The start was a little shaky, but the end result was fantastic. After totaling 58 wins over five seasons in New York, Georgiev tied for the NHL lead with 40 victories in 2022-23. He also finished tied for second in the league with five shutouts.
Georgiev finished the season with a 40-16-6 record while posting a 2.53 goals-against average (GAA) and a .918 save percentage (SV%). Those were both the best marks of his career, despite facing almost 900 more shots than he’d seen in any previous season. Comparatively, those numbers were almost identical to Kuemper’s numbers the previous season (2.54 GAA, .921 SV%).
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The numbers in the playoffs were similar to Georgiev’s regular season, as he tallied a 2.60 GAA and .914 SV% in the seven games of the first-round loss to the Seattle Kraken. Not much of the blame for the series loss can be placed on his shoulders, though, as Colorado’s offense failed to score three goals in four of the seven games. For the first postseason as a starter in his career, that was a good showing by Georgiev and bodes well for the future.
What’s Next for Georgiev & Avalanche
All of the questions about whether or not Georgiev could handle the rigors of a full season were easily put to rest by the netminder’s play. He also showed some mettle in the postseason and proved he could thrive in the starter’s role. This looks like the same recipe Colorado used to get Grubauer, as he turned into a legitimate NHL goaltender once the trade pulled him out of Braden Holtby’s shadow with the Washington Capitals.
Goaltenders in Colorado have long been overshadowed by the firepower of the Nathan MacKinnon-led offense – and those big guns up front can forgive a lot of sins on defense. However, with news that Gabriel Landeskog will miss another season, and the uncertainty of the forward lines thanks to a number of free agents, having a reliable backstop like Georgiev cannot be overstated.
Georgiev is under contract for two more seasons with the Avs, and it looks like there’s still some room for growth. The major problem for the Avalanche wasn’t on the back end, as the defensive corps is loaded with depth in front of Georgiev’s solid play. If Colorado can get the depth up front sorted out, Georgiev might be able to provide Colorado with a deep run in the playoffs sooner rather than later.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.