All it took was one bad outing from Jose Theodore for blogs and message boards to start using the names "Simeon Varlamov" and "Cam Ward" in the same sentence. It was speculative and even overly optimistic, sure, but not totally unreasonable. After all, like Ward, Varlamov was a former first round draft pick (Ward went 25th overall; Varlamov 23rd overall) with significant international experience at the junior level who had dominated the AHL and shown flashes of brilliance at the NHL level. Still, the comparison was as much based in a desperate hope for a more consistent goaltender as similarities between the pair's respective development curves.
Ten days, two shutouts, four wins, and one improbable come-from-behind series victory later, the Ward/Varlamov comparison looks a lot stronger, and not just because the team is winning with the young Russian in net. Here's how Varlamov's performance stacks up with Ward's from 2005-06 in the regular season:
And in their first six career playoff starts:
It's probably not time to go all crazy and start planning a parade route quite yet. But Varlamov's 2009 postseason seems to be resembling Ward's 2005 postseason more and more every game - and that's something to be excited about.