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Posted at 8:04 AM ET, 01/11/2011

Capitals' goalies 'learning how to respond' during first full NHL seasons

By Katie Carrera

Almost a month ago to the day, Semyon Varlamov stood in net as the Capitals lost, 7-0, to the New York Rangers in what would be the lowest point of their eight-game skid in December. The goals weren't all his fault -- some the result of redirections and screens -- but allowing seven goals against can be tough to move past for any goaltender, let alone a 22-year-old one.

"That kind of outcome was very hard," Varlamov said through a team translator. "But it happens to every goalie; not just myself, but even [Martin] Brodeur and all those guys. I moved on and as a team we recovered and started playing much better defensively."

That contest is now far in the rearview mirror for the Capitals and for Varlamov as well, particularly after the past five starts, during which he is 4-0-1. For both Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, who has shown a developing ability to buckle down in games after giving up an early goal, some of the biggest lessons to be learned in their first full NHL season is how to respond from disappointing losses or react to goals against.

"When you get scored on the first 50 times, every goal hurts. Then you get scored on for 100 goals, and 101st doesn't hurt as much," Capitals' goaltending coach Arturs Irbe said. "It's just experience, and some guys are better suited to deal with that at the early stages of their careers. I think Michal is really really good at that; he lets things go, he can move on. Varly is a guy that is so focused, so demanding of himself, it can take longer. You can't tell which is better, but they're both learning how to respond. As a goalie, you will be remembered by how you respond."

For more on the Caps' battle in goal, click here.

By Katie Carrera  | January 11, 2011; 8:04 AM ET
Categories:  Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov  
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I think it's safe to say: Varlamov is the personal choice of BB regardless of what he says.

I think Varly has a longer leash than Neuvy most of the time, but with his propensity for getting injured it is quite possible that Neuvy will get more time in the net.

Posted by: TurbineBlade1 | January 11, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

@ TurbineBlade1

Agreed totally. But I would add that it is already Varly's to loose. Elmo is no as quick as Varly and plays very square.

But time will tell

Posted by: bqts | January 11, 2011 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Then why was Neuvy extended for 2 years before Varly was?

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | January 11, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Both goalies show amazing promise! If Varly can stay healthy he will probably be a marginally better goalie. I was saying to a friend last week, that Varly has gotten a lot better about recovering after letting in a goal. Last season if he let one in (esp. early in the game) he was extremely likely to let in another over the next few minutes. He seems to have learned to refocus better.

Posted by: capscoach | January 11, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"I still have 6-8 teams with roughly 8-10% chance for Cup, Caps being one of them. Due to the cap, every team has some weakness."

I agree completely with this, although maybe a team or two is at abour 12.5%(semantics). This just shows how when people say the Caps(or any team) won't win the Cup, how good of a shot they have at being right. In hockey, the field is an amazingly strong favorite over any team in the NHL. That's the nature of hockey.

Every team is much more likely to not win the SC than win the SC.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 11, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Then why was Neuvy extended for 2 years before Varly was?

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | January 11, 2011 9:21 AM

Neuvy's money was more like back up prices than starter prices. Also, signing early, we got him lower than we would at the end of the year (assuming his play stayed relatively the same).

Varly's injuries might hurt his dollar value, but I bet he resigns for $2 mil+ a year for a couple years as well come season end. They are waiting to resign Varly to see if the dollar value will go down (at the start of the year it was looking like $3 mil waiting might save us a mil).

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 11, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Did people see the interview with Kuznetsov? It seems like he wants to play in the NHL:

Question – You have won the World Championship. What are your goals now?

Evgeny Kuznetsov – Next, is to win the Stanley Cup. And as far as the national team, I don’t think I will make the team for the next two years.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 11, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Varley gets rattled a little more easily than Neuvy though and I think Varly takes a little more risks in positioning but both are really good and have different pros and cons. I think Neuvy can take a little more of a beating in the crease too.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | January 11, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Is Kuznetsov saying that quote like he doesn't think he's good enough for the Russian national team? Really? Last time I saw that team in action, Olympics, they weren't that good. And the team they ice for the yearly World Championships isn't even as good since many are in NHL Playoffs.

Of course, maybe he was just being humble.

I think he qualifies for U20 one more year. Next year he should dominate.

And, yes, perception was last summer that Varly was 1A and Neuvy 1B. So, they got Neuvy locked up at 1B money. Varly will be thinking he is in the Halak and Price range. We'll see. Halak rode a strong second half and Playoff run last year to a big contract (3.75 I think). Of course, he's 25 so two years were the UFA years...still, that could net Varly as much as $10M over 3 IF he were to come up as big.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 11, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse


Kuznetsov was saying that he likely won't be picked for the national team for the Wolrd Championships for the next two years because he is too young and Russia doesn't usually pick 18 year olds to play on the national team.

He then followed it up with, "if I am picked I will play twice as hard"(or something of that sort).

Posted by: sgm3 | January 11, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

The only thing holding Varly back is his health, when healthy and at his best, he's better than Neuvy.

Varly has 3 regulation SOs so far this season to Neuvy's 1 in 11 fewer starts.

Posted by: joek443 | January 11, 2011 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Kuznetzov was picked to the all-tournament team by unanimous acclaim. I don't know how you can dominate much more than that, there were a lot of really good players in the WJC [15 first-rounders on Canada alone] and he was the best player I saw, to these eyes and to most neutral observers.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 11, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

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