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Get to Know an Islander: Semyon Varlamov

As part of the build-up to the first-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Islanders, Japers’ Rink will be looking at some of the important Islander players and how they might impact the series.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Semyon Varlamov

#40 | Goaltender

Height: 6’2” | Weight: 205 | Born: April 27, 1988

Birthplace: Samara, USSR | Acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent (July 1, 2019)

Assets: Owns a big frame, which he uses effectively to cover a lot of net. Has fast reflexes and a good glove hand, and he moves well in the crease. Displays the calm demeanor required to thrive between the pipes in the NHL.

Flaws: Has had off-ice issues, as well as injury troubles, so he is not as reliable as most upper-echelon starting goaltenders. Is not great at communicating with his defenders, or when handling the puck himself.

Career potential: Quality goaltender, when healthy.


Why You Should Know Who He Is: A spotlight shines bright on a goaltender at all times, but not more so than in the postseason. A soft goal can deflate a team, while a big save can be the springboard to greater things. The margins in the postseason are that thin. Which brings us to Semyon Varlamov. Originally taken by the Caps in the 2006 Entry Draft, 23rd overall (one spot after Claude Giroux by Philadelphia), he played for three seasons with Washington, posting a record of 30-13-12, 2.39, .917, with four shutouts,and authoring a great postseason save of his own before he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for the Avs’ first round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, a pick that still rankles among Caps fans, and a second round pick in that draft. After eight seasons in Colorado, where he ranks second in career wins for the franchise (183) to Patrick Roy (262), Varlamov was signed by the Islanders in July 2019 as an unrestricted free agent.

Varlamov’s first season with the Islanders was rather typical (19-14-6, 2.62, .914, 2 shutouts), consistent with his overall career numbers (232-183-56, 2.67, .915, 27 shutouts). He closed the regular season in a bit of a slump (2-5-2, 2.71, .909 in 11 games), but he was impressive in the elimination round series against Florida, going 3-1, 1.77, .932.

How the Caps Can Beat Him: Varlamov has been what one might call an “athletic” goaltender over the span of his career, who seems to get into a rhythm when facing high shot volumes (12-4-3, 2.43, .928, 1 shutout when facing more than 30 shots this season). He does seem to have issues handling the puck, so making him make plays to move the puck along, coupled with a strong forecheck, could yield scoring chances for the Caps. Negating his athleticism might require that the Caps also get bodies in front of him for screens, deflections, and redirections, forcing Varlamov to use his eyes and anticipation rather than his reflexes. He was 1-2-0, 3.39, .896 in three games against the Caps this season and is 4-6-1, 2.74, .924 in 11 games against his old team over his career.