Capitals goaltender Varlamov continues solid play from last year’s playoffs

TORONTO – Semyon Varlamov is proving his performance in last season’s playoffs was no fluke.

The 21-year-old from Kuybyshev, Russia, turned in another solid performance in the Washington Capitals’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Varlamov kept Washington in the game during as Toronto fired 17 shots at him during the second period, allowing only a goal that deflected off of Niklas Hagman.

In all, the 23rd-overall draft pick in 2006 turned aside 39 regulation and overtime shots before allowing two to get by him the shootout.

“He was great. (Toronto) would have got nothing by him if one didn’t go in off Hagman,” said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau. “He was superb, and he’s played like that for a while now.”

Varlamov first made a name for himself in last season’s playoffs when he took over for starter Jose Theodore in the first round and played 13 games, posting seven wins, a 2.53 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

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He began this year by making sure everyone actually knew his name; Semyon (pronounced sem-YAWN) not Simeon as most were using last year, and a last name is pronounced vahr-LA-mawv, not VAR-la-mawv.

Once the pronunciations were out of the way, Varlamov went to work pushing pucks out of the way.

He has thoroughly outplayed Theodore in the Washington goal this season. Varlamov entered Saturday’s action with a 2.53 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, compared to 3.24 and .893 for Theodore.

Theodore, the 2002 former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner, has played more games this season (14) than Varlamov, as the Capitals try to keep him happy and fresh – possibly for trade bait – and not tire out the younger netminder.

Theodore has never matched the numbers he posted in 2002, and Varlamov is now forcing his glove hand with top-notch play.