SLAP SHOT

It’s time for the Avs to make a hard decision on Alexandar Georgiev

Apr 9, 2024, 4:00 AM

Alexandar Georgiev...

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Alexandar Georgiev might not be the goaltender that can lead the Colorado Avalanche to another Stanley Cup.

That’s the cold, harsh reality after his two most recent performances against the Stars and Oilers.

Heck, it’s sort of felt this way all year.

Georgiev gave up six goals in Edmonton and then another six to Dallas, with the whispers from Avalanche fans becoming downright conversations. There’s more than a goalie controversy brewing in Denver, there might be a crisis.

This team is too talented to bow out in the first-round of the playoffs again this season, and if they do, Georgiev will be the biggest reason why. His save percentage on the year is just .899, or tied for 36th in the NHL.

36th!

Last time I checked there’s only 32 teams in the league, so not only is he trailing most starters but a lot of backups as well. That’s just not good enough to deliver another parade this summer.

Georgiev is giving up 2.97 goals per game, or 33rd in the league. The Avalanche have a championship level roster, but not a championship level goalie in Georgiev.

Luckily, the most unlikely of solutions might already be on the roster. And it’s the guy who started the season as Colorado’s fourth-string goalie overall, playing in the minors with the Eagles.

Ready or not, Justus Annunen needs to prepped to play on the big stage. Round 1, Game, 1, you’re up kid.

The 24-year-old began the year behind Georgiev, Pavel Francouz and Ivan Prosvetov on the depth chart. Francouz is done for the year and might never play again. Prosvetov got a shot with the big club, but struggled in his 11 games.

Enter Annunen.

His numbers are actually significantly better than Georgiev’s on the season. In 12 games he’s 7-4-1 and is giving up just 2.24 goals per game with a .931 save percentage. You don’t need a degree in mathematics to realize he’s significantly out-producing a guy who was somehow an “All-Star” for Colorado a couple of months ago.

It’s nothing personal, and Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar knows that. He brilliantly rode Darcy Kuemper and Francouz to a title in 2022. Yes, injuries to Kuemper played a huge part, but Bednar wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions.

The same could be the case this year.

No one is saying Colorado won’t need Georgiev at some point in the postseason. They definitely will. But with the tournament fewer than two weeks away, Annunen deserves a long look.

He should start three of the four remaining games on the schedule, including against Winnipeg on Saturday. That could very well be for home-ice advantage in Round 1, as the Avs have 102 points and the Jets have 100. Forget the Central Division, Dallas is taking that. Now it’s about making sure Game 1 is at Ball Arena.

Georgiev can have Sunday in Vegas, as that’s a brutal back-to-back with two straight day games. After that, it’s the Annunen show until he needs a break. If he stays hot, he stays in. If he struggles and the team’s playoff lives are on the line, Bednar can switch back to Georgiev.

This team is way too good to waste another year of Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen in their primes. That’s three of the 10 best players on Earth. This could become a dynasty, if the Avalanche find a net-minder to do his part.

And the reality is they don’t need to win games 2-1 in the playoffs. The Avalanche have enough firepower to take games by scores of 5-3, 6-4 etc. — but they can’t be giving up six goals on a nightly basis and expect to prevail.

The defense wasn’t great the last two games, but neither was Alexandar Georgiev. He never bailed Colorado out with the big save.

There’s so much on the line these next couple of months. Right now, Annunen is the Avalanche’s best path forward to another championship.

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It’s time for the Avs to make a hard decision on Alexandar Georgiev