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Boudreau on Varlamov: 'He Owed Us One'

Simeon Varlamov giveth. Then Simeon Varlamov taketh away.

If you haven't seen Varlamov's YouTube moment yet, stop reading this entry immediately and go check it out. Not only was his robbery of Sidney Crosby utterly ridiculous, it was the difference in today's 3-2 win over the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

It was also a stop Coach Bruce Boudreau said the 21-year-old rookie owed the Caps after the softie he yielded to light-scoring defenseman Mark Eaton about five minutes earlier.

"He owed us one," Boudreau said. "He let a floater go in from the point. But he made a great save. There's no doubt. Goalies are taught to never give up. They keep fighting. And that's the only way the Brodeurs, the Thomases, the Luongos look like they make great saves, it's because they never quit on the puck. It was obviously the turning point because they would have had the lead and we would have had to play catch up."

Mike Green added: "That's got to be the highlight of the year; it's got to be. That's a tap in. I was out there and I seen it. Nothing made sense. I could see the net, so I was circling back to the bench. I thought I was a minus."

Varlamov leads the league in goals against average with 1.29 and is tied for the lead with five wins. He was also named the first star for the third time since replacing Jose Theodore and his fourth straight win tied a franchise playoff record.

Some other observations/notes/quotes from today:

Malkin M.I.A.
Evgeni Malkin had a pretty quiet afternoon for an Art Ross Trophy winner. He skated only 4:21 in the first period, though he finished with 20:49. He had two shots on goal, but was mostly a non-factor.

Giving It Away
Literally. The Caps won despite 22 giveaways (to the Penguins' six). Ten of those giveaways occurred in a sloppy second period.

Hardhat For Stecks
David Steckel scored a momentum-changing goal for the 13:50 of the first period. It tied the game, but more important it seemed to wake up the Caps, who had been outplayed through the opening 10 minutes.

"I think it was a wakeup call," Steckel said of his first goal of these playoffs. "We were getting our [butts] handed to us, pretty much. It was a joke. I don't know if it was because it was an afternoon [but] we didn't come ready to play."

Boudreau on Steckel: "He's a big-game guy," Boudreau said. " He took the big important faceoffs at the end with 30 seconds. Frankly, he could have had two or three tonight."

Quote of the Day
"On our side, Varly played well," Alex Ovechkin said. "On a different side, [Marc-Andre Fleury] played well. Post played well."

Ovechkin was referring to the two pucks he rang off the goal post and the one Tomas Fleischmann put off the crossbar.

Caps' Special Teams Are Special
The Caps only got two power play opportunities but Ovechkin cashed in on a two-man advantage late in the first period that was set up by a beautiful slap pass by Alexander Semin (two assists). The penalty kill was also efficient, thwarting all five shorthanded situations it faced (though it got plenty of help from a sloppy Penguins' power play unit).

Odds and Ends
The Caps now have 12 goals at home in the playoffs, which ranks second behind Boston. The Caps' 22 playoff goals are second behind Chicago's 24 (entering tonight). Their 10 first period goals lead the league. ...The Caps are 7-1 all time in Game 1s against Pittsburgh (but 1-6 in those series).

That's it from me tonight. Be sure to check out all of our coverage online and in the paper.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  May 2, 2009; 7:52 PM ET
 
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Next: From Russia, With Busted Glove

Comments

Didn't realize we hit that many posts during the game. I knew the one Ovie hit early in the 2nd, really thought it might have sealed it at that point or given us the mo for the rest of the game. Close calls both ways though, to be expected in a series with 2 teams this good.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | May 2, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

It really seems like the team is coming together stronger than ever. The D is way tight compared to early in the year,when everyone said they were soft. The PK. Secondary scoring,and goaltending,plenty of time for more heroics from the Young Guns. A more balanced team,that's playing very good that can get even better. Just thrilling to be in DC and the area while this is going on

Posted by: ridgely1 | May 2, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Varlamov made a fantastic save on Crosby. I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but it seemed to me that there was another unsung hero in this play. Crosby was being backchecked by another CAPS player (Gordon?) which lessened the impact of his shot. Without that effort Varlamov could not have worked his magic!

Posted by: TrackCollector | May 2, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

We still have some things to work on. Not being so cute in our own zone getting the puck out, actually turning a good break out into a positive for our transition game getting the puck in deep or a shot off...these were issues today. Also not getting caught up too high pinching but not stopping the puck, giving up the jailbreak odd man rush the other way.

On the whole though the goaltending question has an answer (for now although signs are good), and the D have played much better in our own zone.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | May 2, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

I heard Varly didn't know there were no shootouts in the playoffs. Oh well, he does one thing well, and that's keep pucks out of the net!

Tarik, on NHL.com it says Varly's GAA is 1.17... I know not a huge difference, but still.

Posted by: rachel216 | May 2, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

@Track

This is true, also the puck was not laying flat for Crosby, not exactly rolling but it was on edge so that would be a big reason for him to not be able to get it up. Still, 49 times out of 50 his shot is a goal.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | May 2, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

They haven't updated yet Rachel...9 goals in 7 games is a 1.29. Still tops in the league I would think after 'hawks put 3 in the other night.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | May 2, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Haha, Funny Ovie. "Post played well." Stupid post! Ovie has now hit at least 4 posts in the playoffs!

Posted by: rachel216 | May 2, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Uh, that's right, Dave. =)

Posted by: rachel216 | May 2, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Rachel :) I actually did that math in my head at the game leaving when my brother asked, that's why I jumped on it. I still want to see him keep it up for the full series against a team like the Pens, but it's hard to disagree that the kid has done everything possible so far.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | May 2, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Dave: You did the math in your head? You're a smart guy. =)

I found this on espn:

Sidney Crosby was asked whether Simeon Varlamov's save on him late in the second period was the best ever.

"No," he said.

Yeah right!! Even Sid thought he had scored!! But he denied it and said he hoped that would cause a replay...

Posted by: rachel216 | May 2, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

From earlier...

CAP-lanta & rachel216,
Couldn't agree with you more about the NBC commentary. Way too much focus on what either team should have done. I've also noticed that when time expires for the team on the power play they become 'full strength' according to the graphics. Coupled with the horrible commentary, lack of reviews of penalties and pivotal moments it's no wonder the casual fan doesn't 'get' hockey. GO CAPS!


Posted by: HappyWeagle | May 2, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: HappyWeagle | May 2, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

"On our side, Varly played well," Alex Ovechkin said. "On a different side, [Marc-Andre Fleury] played well. Post played well."

At least our star player gives credit on good saves :)


GO CAPS!

Posted by: The_Stanley_Caps | May 2, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

7 minutes left in the third period, Bears ae beating the Baby Pens 5-3 with goals from Kronwall, Bourque, Gordon, Wilson and, you guessed it, Giroux.

Posted by: The_Stanley_Caps | May 2, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Go Bears! give the baby pens a beat down as well!

Posted by: Chase4 | May 2, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Go Neuvy!

Posted by: rachel216 | May 2, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I hope somebody figures out why the team isn't "coming to play." I'll nominate Bruce for that duty.

Posted by: CletusVanDamme | May 2, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

CletusVanDamme: I agree. They need to come out better. Two games in a row where it took them more than 10 minutes to get their first shot on goal. Usually they are very strong from the drop of the puck, but the last two games, they haven't been at all. They seem nervous and tense, which is strange... hopefully they come out firing on Monday night so we can take a 2-0 lead into Pittsburgh. =)

Bears win, Neuvy with 35 saves. :)

Posted by: rachel216 | May 2, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

@Track + @Davethecapsfan:

That was no backcheck on Crosby. That was Poti who made a mess of the 2 on 2. He chased Crosby across the ice and then couldn't stay with him, and in the process cut off his own partner, Green, who couldn't get to Kunitz making the pass across possible. In a 2 on 2 situation, the offensive team only gets an open net if the defense messes up or the offense beats somebody.

Gordon and Kozlov were backchecking, but not in a position to defend Crosby at all.

Posted by: JoeWho | May 3, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

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