Game 2's performance by Simeon Varlamov was real nice, and surely overshadowed by his team being blanked at home. But last night's wonderfully composed job between the pipes was the emphatic statement that proclaimed that the rookie is determined to lead these Capitals in net just as long as Coach gives him the nod. We wouldn't call him the unlikeliest of spring heroes but, in the manner in which the story of the position is unfolding, he's damn near close.
The Iron Curtain also has ice water in his veins.
One easily plucked storyline from the beginnings of this first round series with the Rangers was the effect that goaltender agitator Sean Avery would have on José Théodore. That story could have simply substituted its subject for Varlamov. Instead, the latter denied Avery any ability to wrest authority in the crease, and rendered him, and his antics, impotent.
Dmitry Chesnokov asked Varly post-game about the wild and reckless aggression shown him by Avery. The pushing and shoving, the dramatic flops in the crease, the deliberate crashing into his pads and subsequent whining to the referees, the punch to the face as a final insult belched at the young Russian.
Varly's translated reaction:
Well, everyone knows that he skates around trying to get everyone fired up. And I know about it. We talked about it at the team meetings as well. That's why I do not pay attention to such incidents. Yes, I know and actually saw how he was swinging his stick in front of Brodeur. I am ready for his provocations.
I just touched him a little bit. And that's it. He reacted with a lot of emotion. He started yelling something. Of course, I didn't understand half of it.
Query whether he would understand Avery even with a better command of English.
And the punch?
A game is a game. My main objective is to catch pucks and concentrate on my own game and not to notice what he does.
In the face of ugly, Varly stood firm, focused. He didn't even look at him. Just shook it off, unaffected. So like a high-school bully demoralized by his inability to conjure a reaction from his prey, Varly left Avery flapping and flailing his way out of the game. (And maybe the next as well?)
He saw shots through traffic. He was aggressive. He was not content with a comfortable three and then four goal lead. Only by denying every scoring bid in a hostile building, reducing the volume within Madison Square Garden to the level of the New York Public Library's Rose Main Reading Room a few blocks away, would he be satisfied.
And did we mention rebound control? A phrase uttered with trepidation by Caps Nation throughout most of the season, and now with awe. All this while facing physical and (mostly incomprehensible) verbal abuse.
I recalled last night a Capitals home game in February of 2007 against these same Rangers, during the early portion of Avery's first tour of duty on for the Blueshirts. One Olaf Kolzig manned the pipes for the home team that afternoon. Avery goaded Olie into a penalty in the game, the abused netminder clubbing his opponent's head with his mammoth trapper. The Rangers scored on the ensuing power play, and forever changed the game's momentum, cruising to a 5-2 victory. Looks like that won't happen with Varly. Not this time.
And, by the way, Avery was so frustrated by his feebleness all game long, that during that late third period Ranger power play preceding the rattling of #40's jaw, he remained intent on shoving back Shaone Morrisonn when the puck laid right at his feet, in the crease.
So, why not? Let the story of the kid 'tender continue on Wednesday, and blossom into "The Legend of Czarlamov," one that we fans will remember fondly for a long time. Young lion, this is your kingdom.