Chesnokov and Lysenkov on Varly:
The last two seasons have turned out to be the same for Semyon Varlamov. During the regular season he was considered Jose Theodore’s understudy, and played infrequently, but well (winning 60% of his games). And just as it seemed that Varlamov would replace “Three-or-more” (Jose’s nickname, meaning no less than three goals per game. – Editor’s note), Semyon would get injured . Then he would dejectedly watch Washington play from the press box, and go down to the farm club to recover his game form.
But in the playoffs, to everybody’s surprise, Varlamov’s played well. Clashes with Rangers, Pittsburg and Montreal turned out to be hard for Washington. If it weren’t for the young goalie, the Capitals would have no chance in those series.
Now Theodore is gone, and Varlamov seemingly should become number one of the Capitals. But there is another wunderkind – Czech Michal Neuvirth, who has twice won the Calder Cup (a Stanley Cup equivalent for the AHL) with the farm team Hershey. Neuvirth is praised not for a flashy style, but rather an Olympic-like poise, a quality not often found in a 22 year old youngster.
“Neuvirth has a very interesting, even unique style – says Washington’s goalie coach Arthur Irbe. – he is almost never out of position. He is always ready to make a save.
Varlamov suffered throughout the last season with groin and knee injuries. In the beginning of August he flew to Washington in order to be able to train with the team’s strength coach Mark Nemish. Semyon has more NHL experience. He should become number one goalie of the Capitals. But, without a doubt, Neuvirth will not yield without a fight. And it is hard to say what is better – to compete with unsteady veteran Theodore, or inexperienced, but talented, and poised like a python, Neuvirth.
Yesterday, Sovetsky Sport correspondent Dmitry Chesnokov congratulated Semyon with the victory in the team’s annual Duchesne Cup tournament, where Varly played on the team that also had Backstrom and Ovechkin.
- Usually I allow five or six goals in these scrimmages, this year it’s only four. Not bad at all! – smiled Varlamov.
- How is your game form for the season?
- I feel awesome. I worked hard through the summer. Just need to find my game rhythm, when the season starts. So far, judging by these scrimmages, I am not feeling comfortable in goal. The movement is not right. But I am going to correct that during the preseason games.
- You are starting the season as Washington’s number one. There is no Jose Theodore, Brent Johnson…
- But there is Neuvirth, Holtby, Sabourin, there are other young talents. The competition is crazy! No, it is not easier. Everybody thinks that Varlamov is number one. But that is just words, you have to prove on the ice.
- There is a tendency in the NHL not to value goaltenders too much. Antti Niemi helped Chicago win the cup, and his contract was not renewed.
- I don’t want to talk about Niemi. And I think the goalies in the NHL are worth more than half a team. If a goalie plays superbly and stops everything, his team is going to win. A goalie’s contribution is huge.
- After this season your contract, which is for $0.822M, will end. Has Washington started new negotiations?
- Pretty much no… of course I remember how important this season is. I have to play at the highest level. But I don’t mean to say I will give it all now, and then do nothing. I also have plans to play well for the next 15 NHL seasons.
- Washington was an unpleasant surprise in 2010 Stanley Cup, having lost to Montreal in the very first round.
- The fans definitely still have bitter taste. But the players don’t remember about it already. Professionals must not get stuck on such things. You lost – forget about it and move on.
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