By ARNIE STAPLETON
2014-02-28 03:22 AM
CENTENNIAL, Colorado (AP) -- When Semyon Varlamov was pulled in Russia's final ice hockey game at the Sochi Olympics after allowing three goals in 15 shots, the shock wave was felt 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) away in Denver.
Fans of the Colorado Avalanche wondered how their goaltender's ego would hold up over the remainder of the NHL season.
Upon returning to Denver, Varlamov showed he had taken the disappointment in stride.
"Sorry I didn't bring my gold medal with me," he joked to reporters following his first practice after the Olympic break.
Varlamov, of course, didn't bring any color of medal back from Sochi, and how that disappointment plays out will have a major effect on how the Avalanche do over the second part of the season.
Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic believes Varlamov will be just fine between the pipes and between the ears.
"He had a good tournament," Sakic said. "You look at the last game, maybe the first (goal) he'd like to have back, but he had a great tournament for them and it definitely wasn't goaltending that was the issue. Obviously, they all faced a lot of pressure being at home with the expectations.
"But Varly has been our MVP this whole year and I expect the same thing from him."
Varlamov, who faced a domestic violence case this season that was eventually dropped, has played a leading role in Colorado's turnaround season.
"You can just tell his confidence is staying big in the net," Sakic said. "He's as good as any goalie there is out there. That's the biggest thing. Goaltending is confidence, and he's got it."
The Avalanche sent three other players to the Olympics: American Paul Stastny, Swede Gabriel Landeskog, who showed off his silver medal upon his return, and Canadian Matt Duchene, who proudly wore his gold medal when he got back.