From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Semyon Varlamov.
#40 / Goalie / Washington Capitals
Apr 27, 1988
$821,667 cap hit in 2010-11; RFA after 2010-11 season
Key Stat: Varlamov's playoff numbers (2.49 goals against average and .915 save percentage) are better than his regular season stats (2.52/.911) two seasons into his career... with one exception (and, unfortunately, it's the one that matters most) - he's won 59.4% of his regular season decisions and 52.6% of them in the postseason.
Interesting Stat: Varlamov is fourth in franchise history in playoff wins (and third in GAA and SV%).
The Good: Varlamov's second season in North America got off to a shaky start (more on that below), but overall he continued his winning ways, running his career record to 16-1-3/2.25/.923 (and season mark to 12-1-2/2.20/.924) before suffering a lower-body injury in December. In fact, throw out those first two starts of the season, his attempt to return from injury after two months on the shelf (for which Bruce Boudreau called him out as being unprepared), and his next start after that (nearly a month later), and Varly posted a fairly dominant 13-3-6/2.14/.922 line. He was 9-2-2/2.06/.921 at Verizon Center, and had two shutouts in a four-game span immediately preceding his injury. Perhaps most importantly, through 28 regular season starts, Varlamov has only been pulled once and has only surrendered more than four goals twice; in other words, he's giving the high-powered Caps' offense a chance to win nearly every time out.
Despite entering the post-season as a back-up for the second-consecutive season, Varlamov was once again called upon to bail out his team when Jose Theodore faltered, this time with the Caps down 1-0 in the series and 2-0 just eight minutes into Game 2. And bail them out he did, running off three straight wins and giving the team a great chance to close out the series with a 26-saves-on-28-shots performance in Game 5. Varly's offense could only get him one goal in that game, though, and he followed it up with a mediocre Game 6 and a not-quite-good-enough Game 7, and that was that. Varlamov wrapped up his hockey season with a silver medal at Worlds, where he finished the tourney 4-1/1.41/.951.
Finally, it should be noted that Varly has provided us fans with several fantastic interviews, with gems such as, "When you see this raging sea of red, your adrenaline goes off the charts," "If I'm not fully healed by Vancouver, I'll hang myself," and, of course, "It's difficult to look at a lot of the local women."
The Bad: Varlamov struggled through the pre-season and into the start of the regular season, giving up goals in rather unsightly bunches and not getting his GAA below 3.00 or save percentage above .900 until his eight appearance of the season. Understandably, he struggled a bit to get in a groove after the injury, posting a 1-2-2/3.92/.856 line before finishing out the regular season on a 2-1-2/2.21/.915 run. As a result of his ups and downs (perhaps themselves a cause for concern when coupled with Boudreau's open criticism of his preparation), he ended the season with rather average overall peripheral numbers.
More concerning, however, is Varly's durability. He missed two months this season, more than a month in 2008-09, and has yet to play more than 60 total games (regular season and playoffs) in any single season. If Varlamov is to be "the guy" in D.C., he'll probably have to be a bit more dependable, health-wise, than he has been thus far in his professional career.
The Vote: Rate Varlamov below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Is Semyon Varlamov capable of leading the 2010-11 Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals? Does he need a veteran back-up, or could he and Michal Neuvirth be a successful tandem? What would it take for Varly to earn a 10 next season?