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Goalie coach on Varlamov: 'The sky is the limit'

Goalie coach Arturs Irbe instructs Semyon Varlamov during Tuesday's practice at Bell Centre. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Yesterday I caught up with goalie coach Arturs Irbe and talked to him for a few minutes about Semyon Varlamov, the Caps' Game 4 starter tonight. Irbe, who knows a thing or two about alternating with another goalie in a Stanley Cup run (with Kevin Weekes in 2002 with the 'Canes), had some illuminating comments about young Varlamov.

Here's the Q&A:

Q: Was Varlamov's effort on Monday his best since suffering the injuries?
A: I don't know if that was best, but it was his first complete game from start to the end. He has shown it before, but for 60 minutes, it was definitely the best.

Q: He credits you with really helping him stay sharp mentally while alternating down the stretch with Jose Theodore. What has your impact on his game been?
A: I think, more than anything, the difference is that his English is still not 100 percent. He would understand if someone else told him these technical things. But he would not be sure. With the goaltending position, you have to be sure in everything, whatever you are doing.

From that perspective, I can convey to him the message [in his native Russian] and it's completely understood. If he has any questions, they can be answered because, verbally, he can create a precise question and recreate the situation. If it would be done in English, it would be more difficult.

Q: Varlamov's glove hand was a concern in the playoffs last season. Do you think he has made progress in that department? Is seems like you're doing a lot of pre-practice work with him.
A: The glove hand is a problem for everyone. It just sometimes pops up, and sometimes it doesn't, into the eye of the media or coach or scout. One thing we wanted to implement on this team is every time we have a slight chance [in practice or morning skate] we want to put shots on the glove on the blocker.

It's really [assistant coaches Dean Evason and Bob Woods] working on it. I just try to explain to them that it's a feel-good thing for practice. It gets the goalie ready for practice [and] he's not struggling anymore with shots. If you are not warmed up, and you take really hard shots from [Alex Ovechkin] or whoever, and you get scored on. It gets to you and you start to squeeze your stick tighter and you glove. You start to think too much.

Q:You were an accomplished goalie yourself and you've faced some Hall of Fame caliber goalies. Where Varlamov's ceiling? How good can he be?
A: He has the making of it. There are obviously parts of the game and parts of the preparation that he has to mature, get better. The sky is the limit for a guy like that.

Q: What's his best asset?
A: The strength of his game is focus and his seriousness. How seriously he takes the game. He doesn't let any small detail go undetected. He wants to improve even on small things. Even if he makes a save, it doesn't mean he is satisfied. He wants to make it right. He's a perfectionist.

Q: Can being a perfectionist be a good and bad thing for a goalie?
A: Sometimes it's hard because you get disappointments and put too much pressure. But I think he has learned to deal with that.

Q: How did he deal with not starting the playoffs?
A: He knows he's still kind of a rookie. He understands that it's just the beginning. He's dealt with it great. All he has done while was sitting was say, 'I want to get better and do so well that when I get in the net, there is no reason to get me out.'

The length of Varlamov's stay in Washington's net, of course, will be up to him.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 21, 2010; 4:37 PM ET
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Next: Tonight's lineup: Caps at Canadiens


Let's Go Varly. GO CAPS

Posted by: Caps4Life1 | April 21, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Nice article. Nice to see something positive written about our goaltending.

Posted by: ccCapsfan | April 21, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Varly varly varly varly varly varly varly varly.

Red Sky at night, Habs no where in sight!

Posted by: Jordan_Kitts | April 21, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

This kid is fantastic. He saved our bacon against the Rangers last year, and was outstanding this year before he got hurt.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 21, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Alan May was just on Comcast. He called Flash a "stiff" (the way he has been playing lately).

Posted by: zmega | April 21, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

from last thread: I am beginning to genuinely hope that this clown car of haters runs Mike Green out of town, and that he goes on to win three Stanley Cups with another club like Larry Murphy did. You'd deserve it.

Posted by: kittypawz | April 21, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I was only two when he was moved but I know my parents supported him. My mom even named our cat after him because she felt so bad for him.

Side funny note, my mom told him that story when we met him and the rest of the Red Wings after they won the Cup in 97 and they were doing their White House/Congress visit and I have never seen him move so quick as he did when he walked away from her. He must have thought she was some stalker after that story.

Also he won 4 Cups after the fans rode him out of town. Two with the Pens and two with the Wings.

My dad always tells me stories about how good our D was back then with a top 4 of Langway, Stevens, Murphy, and Hatcher. It is a shame I was too young to see that lineup.

Posted by: icehammer97 | April 21, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Disclaimer: Not looking ahead of the Habs in any way, shape or form since everyone knows they are a great team and we have lots of work to do still to advance.

Now that that's out of the way, Lebrun reporting that Carter and Gagne out for the remainder of the playoffs. Make if it what you will.

Posted by: Moose33 | April 21, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Back in my bar fly days, I was always hoping to be called "stiff". Maybe Alan May's comment didn't mean the same thing?

Posted by: AADCDERM | April 21, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

The defense in the late 1980s was really, REALLY deep too. Garry Galley was here too, played on the third pair. On the subject of Varly, the thing that concerns me is avoiding the injury bug. I'd hate to see us throw all the support behind him only to lose Neuvy somewhere along the way and have him turn into the next Hasek...

Posted by: ValleyCaps | April 21, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Game 2 seemed like the first time Varly looked like his dominant self before the injuries hit this season. As much as I want Theo to get another chance to get his playoff/Montreal monkeys off his back, I'd just as soon Varly continue playing well enough for Theo to ride the pine and enjoy the ride. :)

Varlamov seems wise and respectful for his age, and seems like another "good character" find by McPhee and co.

Posted by: blackjack65 | April 21, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Wow too bad Flyers... well not really. Moose33 you're right, sb nation says Gagne out 3 weeks, and Carter out 6 weeks. Ouch.

I think Sasha gets a goal tonight. LET'S GO CAPS!!!!!

Posted by: rachel216 | April 21, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

@AADCDERM - The term goes back several years, maybe even decades - I haven't heard it used in a while. Basically, it refers to someone who can't play. It was usually used to describe very tall but uncoordinated basketball players. So in that sense, maybe not applicable to Flash. In context, though, I don't believe a compliment was intended.

Posted by: zmega | April 21, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

He's got all the talent in the world. So do all the other goalies.
Just like closers & kickers...
Comes down to mental toughness.

That will be the deciding factor.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 21, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Great interview and cool info.

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | April 21, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Not counting my chickens before they hatch or anything...but if the Flyers can pull out 1 of the next 3 games against the Devils they'd be the Caps 2nd round opponent.

Not saying that the Flyers would be an easy out...but a team missing 2 stars and utlizing it's third string goalie is way more palitable than Boston with Rask in net...or even Pittsburgh. Let's leave those guys to the conference finals.

Posted by: patrone | April 21, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Tough break for the Flyers.

There's not much but maybe some single tickets currently available for game 5:

Posted by: Justafan | April 21, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

we need live chat tonight

Posted by: rachel216 | April 21, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

not happinin' Rach...

Best you can hope 4 is a fresh thread between now and 7pm.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | April 21, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Sloan will play if Morrison can't go.

Posted by: robostop10 | April 21, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I love the the mindset of B. Laich, and I HATE the wardrobe of L. Hillary.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | April 21, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

No Spacek tonight. Does Ovie go off?

Posted by: McBride33 | April 21, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Hahahahaha Lisa Hillary.. I like her but I have to agree with you wtf. Sometimes her choices are really bad. (Christmas sweater.)

Everybody go off tonight! Semin and Flash will breakout and our PP clicks. What a perfect world! =)

Posted by: rachel216 | April 21, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I like her too Rach, and I think she tries REAL hard.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | April 21, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Can someone please send the link to watch the game online tonight? Its not on versus down here

Posted by: capsfan5252 | April 21, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

SPACEK is a scratch and so is Sho.Mo Sloan is in instead.

Posted by: icehammer97 | April 21, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

5252 has three feeds listed. They tend not to be up until right at 7 or a minute or two after but I am sure one will be good.

Posted by: icehammer97 | April 21, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: MyPostIDisAfake | April 21, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

@capsfan5252 has what your looking for

Posted by: sleepy3 | April 21, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

For anyone who has watched the other series, the Devils aren't playing well and Boucher is playing like, well, Marty.

Hottest team right now might be Pittsburgh. They are peaking at the right time. After dropping the first one, they've been pretty dominant against an Ottawa team that had been running pretty hot themselves.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | April 21, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

always a day late and a dollar short

Posted by: sleepy3 | April 21, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

So no post for game chat?

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | April 21, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

PIT is playing well but Ottawa was just pathetic last night. They looked like they didn't belong in the playoffs. PIT will wrap it up tomorrow so it's vital for us to get a 3-1 lead tonight.

Posted by: rachel216 | April 21, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

new thread

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | April 21, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

new thread

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | April 21, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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