Simeon Varlamov's Big Night
After all his teammates had cleared out of the dressing room, with the team bus scheduled to depart in just a few minutes, Simeon Varlamov ducked his head back in the room. A media staffer gestured him over toward his stall.
"Me?" Varlamov asked, all innocent shock. "I need a translator."
He said this in fairly unaccented English. We all stood around and made small talk, in English, while waiting for a Russian translator. Finally a Russian television journalist was procured. There was a brief pause.
"No questions?" Varlamov deadpanned. In English. Cool customer, this one.
Not just in the dressing room, either. As he was putting the finishing touches on the most important and impressive game of his NHL career, the rookie was given one last memory of his Madison Square Garden debut. Rangers troublemaker Sean Avery parked in front of the Caps' net after a whistle, where he was engaged by Caps defenseman John Erskine. As officials moved the pair away, Avery sent an arm into Varlamov's head.
Welcome to New York, kid.
"He was trying to stir it up," Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau said, "but he's trying to stir it up with a guy that doesn't know what he's talking about."
Seriously, don't underestimate his English. In any case, just as he had all night, Varlamov reacted more like an unfazed commuter jostling onto the 1 train than a kid one week shy of his 21st birthday playing hockey in front of 18,000 lunatics. He took off his helmet as Avery was sent to the dressing room for the night. Shaone Morrisonn came over and swatted the rookie affectionately on the pad. Tomas Fleischmann headed over to share a laugh. Varlamov slipped his helmet back on, and completed the first shutout of his NHL career, a 4-0 Game 3 triumph that put the Caps right back in this thing.
"How can the goalie feel after you win in Madison Square Garden without letting any pucks into the goal?" he said through the interpreter. "Very, extremely happy."
He was beaten cleanly once, saved by Nicklas Backstrom's stick and the post, as Rangers fans stood and cheered an apparent goal. Several other shots glanced off his glove and danced in front of the net until a teammate came to clean up the mess.
Still, the big 0 stuck around on that scoreboard all night. The Caps had recorded just two shutouts this season, both by Jose Theodore, though he didn't face as many shots in either game as Varlamov did last night. The rookie has allowed one goal over his past two games, something the Caps hadn't previously accomplished this season. He made 33 saves, the most of his brief NHL career.
"I know how good he is and how good he can be," fellow Russian Viktor Kozlov said. "Still, against the Rangers, Madison Square Garden? That's a pretty good job."
"He's playing unbelievable," Fleischmann added. "I'm hoping he just keeps up his good work."
Boudreau said Varlamov was informed he'd be the starter this morning, but the coach didn't even tell him, instead passing the duty off to Ovechkin.
"The fact that he doesn't understand a word we're saying probably really helps him," Boudreau quipped after the game. "I told Alex to tell him, so I don't know what he told him. I said just tell him he's playing. The only thing I could do is probably put pressure on him, if I go up and tell him we really need this one, win this one for the Gipper or something. So just tell him he's playing, and let him do his job."
Boudreau dismissed the talk of this pressure being an unbelievable strain on such a young kid, pointing out that Varlamov has had similar moments in the world juniors and the Russian league playoffs. Ovechkin and Fleischmann said the same. Kozlov wasn't so sure.
"No, I think it's a little bit different," Kozlov said. "More intense, more shots, because the Rangers [are] very good opponent. So Varly had a great game today, and we are very happy for him."
The kid said he was more nervous against Montreal in the regular season, and more nervous in Game 2, his first playoff game. He said Avery never got inside his head, that "my main job is to catch the puck, and I was trying to focus on it through the whole game. I know that he can get you out of your balance, and for me it was very important to keep a straight face and really concentrate on the game." He was asked by Mike Wise what he would drink to celebrate, seven days before he turned 21; "tonight, I will drink milk," he responded as he left for the bus.
After it was over, he was mobbed by his teammates. Mike Green and Brooks Laich got there first, with Green sticking his face in Varlamov's mug and keeping it there. Kozlov gave him a fatherly pat on the shoulder. Erskine provided a headbutt. Theodore gave a long embrace, after which Ovechkin rubbed the former starter on the head and then embraced Varly.
"It's very important when you play in the playoffs that the goalie plays his best and the team feels more confident about themselves," Varlamov said. "I understand the value of being valuable for my team."
Posted by: breaklance | April 21, 2009 1:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: scrappledog | April 21, 2009 2:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rachel216 | April 21, 2009 6:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sitruc | April 21, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: VeloStrummer | April 21, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rocc00 | April 21, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bucknelldad | April 21, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: J-NC | April 21, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jhorstma | April 21, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: travlinsam | April 21, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jason2smith | April 21, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: alecw81 | April 21, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: travlinsam | April 21, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Varly | April 21, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: govtimbo | April 21, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: oneft2dice | April 21, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jason2smith | April 21, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JDB1 | April 21, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: travlinsam | April 21, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jason2smith | April 21, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: GKINMD | April 21, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: travlinsam | April 22, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.