He’s Not Just Good, He’s Just Right

Why Semyon Varlamov Perfectly Fits This Caps Team


The study of organizational culture is sort of a hobby of mine. It occurred to me, after thinking about Saturday’s Game 1 against the Penguins, that Semyon Varlamov isn’t merely a talented goalie to save this post-season for the Washington Capitals — the way he’s playing makes him the perfect fit for this Caps team at this time. The clues are all in the spectacular save he made on Sidney Crosby, which was a perfect summation of his style and the team’s as a whole.


Varlamov is young, but he has other strengths to make up for a lack of experience.

  • He makes big, bold moves:
    Varlamov (over)committed to Chris Kunitz, who he admits he thought was going to shoot.
  • Bold moves entail an element of risk:
    Kunitz passed to Crosby, and Varlamov found himself out of position with an empty net behind him.
  • Overcoming risk requires focus:
    Varlamov saw the pass and stayed with the puck, even as it went to his other side.
  • Fortunately, being young also can mean being quick, and being naturally talented also can mean being sufficiently quick that you can correct your mistakes:
    Varlamov reached back with his stick and put it in exactly the right place — a creative move when blockers and butterflys are the preference.

OK, so that was one stunning save, why does it mean Varlamov is such a good match for this team? Well, we’ve seen Bruce Boudreau’s system in action, and it’s a system that favors players who are bold, quick, and focused. It can lead to risky plays that go badly for the Caps, and it depends on the fact that those risky plays are made by enthusiastic, focused natural talents who need a little room to show off their creativity in order to tip the balance their way. Everything Boudreau’s system asks of the skaters is what Varlamov delivers in the crease.


Winning isn’t always just a matter of finding good players for each position on the list. It can sometimes depend on putting together a team of players who share an approach, not merely an aim.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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