Keeler vs. Chambers: Time to believe in Avalanche goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz? – The Denver Post

Keeler: You want to believe, man. You really, really, really do. Since New Year’s Day, only the Islanders have allowed fewer goals per game (1.86) to NHL foes than the Avalanche’s stellar 2.25. Colorado has surrendered more than three goals in a game just twice since Christmas. Darcy Kuemper (6-0-1, 2.30 GAA since Jan. 1) and Pavel Francouz (5-0-1, 2.03) have looked like the nastiest tag team under the lights since The Hart Foundation hung up their singlets — allowing just two goals or fewer in 40% (five of 12) of the Avs’ contests this month. So why can’t I shake this nasty feeling there’s a regression coming? Is it time for Avs fans to trust the law firm of Kuemper & Francouz with their hearts? Or will those just get broken this spring?

Chambers: You should trust the Kuemper/Francouz tandem when it’s a tandem, and right now it’s intact. I think you’re seeing how great they can be together when both are healthy. Kuemper began his current 11-game points streak (10-0-1) a week before Francouz made his season debut in mid-December. Francouz is 5-0 in his last five appearances. Like all good tandems, they’re successful because they play off each other, both getting adequate rest and working a little bit harder to prove they own at least 50% of the net. Francouz, besides successful stints with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, has had an injury-riddled career since coming over to North America from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League in 2018. If he can avoid more bad luck, and Kuemper does the same, Avs fans should not worry.

Keeler: And yet I can’t shake this nagging fear about Kuemper’s nagging injuries. As of Sunday night, the veteran netminder had already made 28 starts — one more than he managed over the 56-game regular season of 2021 with Arizona. Over the previous four years, Kuemper averaged 34 regular-season starts with the Kings and Coyotes, and topped 30 starts during that stretch just once, in 2018-19

Chambers: Kuemper is indeed perceived as the No. 1 guy. If the playoffs began today, he’d be the starter. But the Avs aren’t going to ride him like Patrick Roy in his heyday. The Avs aren’t concerned about seeing Kuemper reach his career-high in games played. Not with Francouz around. With both guys healthy, Kuemper will get two-thirds of the starts, maybe fewer, if Francouz continues to dazzle. I know the Avs really believe in both netminders. It’s No. 1A and 1B. My big question: Who’s going to be around next season? Which pending free agent will get a new contract? With the salary cap not budging anytime soon, the Avs probably won’t be able to afford both guys. So Kuemper and Francouz are also playing for their next deal. They’ll both battle hard for the Avs.

Keeler: Hey, give me January Francouz in April and May, and the Avs can start planning another parade. Trouble is, we’ve never really seen what No. 39 can do in April and May. Or March, for that matter. Of the Czech native’s 42 appearances in an Avs sweater, only five have come after the month of February — and in those, he posted a pedestrian 2-2-1 record and 3.33 GAA. And the six-game stint against the Stars during the late-summer 2020 playoffs doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, either: two wins, four defeats, a 3.23 GAA, and at least four goals allowed in his last three appearances. When the temperature rises on the game’s biggest stages, can he handle the heat?

Chambers: Forget the 2020 Stars series. Francouz was banged up, a knee and both hips. He was only out there because Colorado was leery of putting in No. 3 Michael Hutchinson. Francouz, who stepped in for the injured Philipp Grubauer, couldn’t move, and that’s his strength — cat-like quickness. He’s listed at 6-foot but I’m 5-10 and we see eye-to-eye. He’s not going to beat teams with his size. And pressure? Francouz has stopped all six shots he’s faced in a shootout this season, 9-for-9 in his NHL career, and has been known to be lights-out everywhere he has played. So, yes, he can handle the heat.


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