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Despite Vezina Snub, Semyon Varlamov Still Islanders MVP This year

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New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz knows where his biases lie when it comes to Vezina Trophy candidates for this season. He made no bones about pointing it out, but that didn’t take away any of the disappointment he had when it was announced that Semyon Varlamov was not named a finalist for the award for the NHL’s best goaltender on Tuesday.

Instead, Marc-Andre Fleury, Philipp Grubauer and Andrei Vasilevski were named Vezina finalists. The award is voted on by the 31 NHL general managers each year.

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“Well I’m disappointed, and I am biased,” Trotz said during the Islanders off day on Tuesday. “I get to see Varly from a day in and day out aspect. He’s probably been our MVP this year. I can’t challenge the three finalists. Vasilevski has been outstanding, Fluery has been outstanding and I had Philipp Grubauer, and he’s been outstanding. I’m biased because I get to see Varly and I know how much he means to us in a very competitive division this year.”

There is no question the Islanders wouldn’t have been in the playoffs without Varlamov in net for most of the regular season. At 19-11-4, he was one of the best goaltenders in the league during the regular season. His .929 save percentage was top three in the NHL and his 2.04 goals-against average was among the top five.

Varlamov’s seven shutouts were tied with Grubauer for most in the NHL this year.

“We’re a team that I wouldn’t say has a lot of firepower compared to some of those other teams, so the margin for error is a lot less,” Trotz said while he pointed out the impact Varlamov has had whenever he has been in net. “He has been our MVP this year.”

The Islanders were reminded of that on Monday night during Game 2. While Varlamov allowed the first goal for the third consecutive start this postseason, he was there when the Islanders needed him most.

One of his biggest stops came in the overtime period when he held off Taylor Hall from right on the doorstep. The Islanders scored the game-winner just minutes after that.

“He was great for us the whole game,” Jean-Gabriel Paguea said after Game 2. “He’s been great for us the whole season. To come up and make the big saves, it gives us the little boost sometimes that you need. We were able to create some chances, get some looks, and to see that your goalie has your back, it’s massive.”

While Trotz may be biased in his opinion of Semyon Varlamov, the case is certainly there for him to be a finalist for the Vezina this season. The NHL general managers didn’t see it that way, but it doesn’t diminish the role he played to get the Islanders to the playoffs and why Trotz is correct in saying that Varlamov is the Islanders’ MVP.

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