Semyon Varlamov shines in the Winter Classic
If there were any players who might have been the most impacted by the continually deteriorating weather conditions at Heinz Field for the NHL's Winter Classic, it was the two goaltenders. While Marc-Andre Fleury seemed to slide out of the net when making saves throughout the contest, Semyon Varlamov didn't seem limited by any pooling of water around the crease or unpredictable puck bounces.
Varlamov's 32-save performance in one of the Capitals' more memorable wins over the Penguins during the two teams' rather storied rivalry was his third consecutive victory, and as Coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward, the young Russian is in a "pretty good zone."
"It shows that he can play in pressure situations," Boudreau said of Varlamov's performance in one of the bigger stages of his career. "And he sort of just took it mentally on him, that he wasn't going to allow anything. He's in a pretty good zone right now, shutting out Montreal the last game. He's making a great case this week for being the No. 1 goalie.
"Who knows what can happen next week," Boudreau continued. "I'm sure [Michal Neuvirth] will get a chance. Before he got hurt, he was doing the same thing. So this competition is going to stay together, you know, I'm sure, unless something drastic happens in the last 10 games of the season."
Afterward, Varlamov admitted that dealing with the ice surface and decreased visibility wasn't quite as easy as it might have looked at times.
"It was pretty tough to keep concentration, to keep focused because of the water," he said through a translator. "And sometimes when they shoot the puck it was coming again with water and it was very tough to deal with it."
While the rest of the Capitals have maintained all season that whether it's Varlamov or Neuvirth are in net, when either one is on the top of his game it gives a noticeable boost to the entire team.
"I thought that he played the puck great tonight. Probably one of the best he's ever played the puck, I thought, just making it real easy on us," John Carlson said. "And it helps when he's stopping all the pucks too."
To earn the start for the Winter Classic was going to be a big moment for either goaltender, and as Tarik wrote for Saturday's paper, for the time being it is Varlamov's time to show Washington what it was missing while he was out with a groin injury.
"It was very good for me. I was very honored that coach let me play. It was a great celebration for all of us and for the fans," Varlamov said of the start, though he remained diplomatic when discussing the competition with Neuvirth.
"I'm playing with Neuvy together, and I think we're on the same page," he said. "Last three games I played well and I think the coach let me play tonight because last two games I played really well."
| January 2, 2011; 1:01 AM ET
Categories: Semyon Varlamov, Winter Classic
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