Caps searching for answers
WASHINGTON – Semyon Varlamov said he was so nervous to face the Capitals for the first time in his career that he couldn’t get his legs to stop shaking during warmups and throughout the entire first period.
Forty saves later, he had his first victory against the team that traded him away three summers ago for a pair of draft picks.
“I think it’s so special for the goalie to beat the old team,” Varlamov said after improving his record to 4-0 and keeping his goals-against average at 1.00.
“It’s a lot of glamorous to play here. That was my first game since I left Washington. That’s why I think I am too nervous.
“In the warm-up my legs were shaking. The whole first period my legs were shaking. But after the first period I felt so much better.”
Varlamov was clearly the difference in the game. He stopped a wraparound attempt by Brooks Laich early in the game, turned aside a Jason Chimera redirection later in the period and got his right pad on what appeared to be Tom Wilson first career goal in the second period.
Included in his 40 stops were six saves on Alex Ovechkin and six more on Laich. In fact, everyone on the Capitals but Marty Erat recorded a shot on Varlamov, who received high praise from Hall of Fame goaltender and Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy.
“He had a good time here in Wash, made a lot of friends,” Roy said. “He never said one word against the Capitals. He said it was a good organization. In the end when you make trades you hope the trade will turn great for both teams and that was a really good one for him.”
Varlamov struggled along with the rest of the Avalanche last season as they finished with the second-worst record in the NHL. But with the arrival of Roy and goalie coach Francois Allaire, Varlaov is off to the best start of his career, fulfilling the promise that made the Caps take him with their first pick of the 2006 draft.
“He certainly moves well side to side,” Roy said. “What I like is he’s under control. He’s inside the pipes and he’s always in the position to make the save. I’m very happy with him.”
Actually, it might have been Michal Neuvirth who felt more nervous Saturday night. Making his first start of the season, Neuvirth was out to prove the Capitals made the right decision in keeping him over Varlamov.
Neuvirth allowed a goal by Alex Tanguay on the Avs’ fourth shot of the game and one each by Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon to give the Avs a 3-0 lead after two periods. But it was a bad-angle, shortside, short-handed tally by Tanguay that killed the chances of a late comeback.
“I’m sure there’s one or two Neuvy wants back,” Adam Oates said. “But he hasn’t played, so in fairness to him he’s got to get his chance.”