Maybe, just maybe, Caps’ 20-year-old netminding sensation Simeon Varlamov will John Druce-ify us this postseason. Maybe he will make like Ken Dryden or Cam Ward and backstop the Caps all the way to Glory. But no matter what else he does this spring, Simeon Varlamov has made this hockey season special. He has electrified Washington’s hockey fans in the present and fostered big dreams about our future.
Already he’s auditioning conspicuously, and conspicuously well, for the lead role of Washington athlete who gets talked about from the corner of Clyde’s to the subcommittee rooms of Capitol Hill — by hockey fans and non-hockey fans alike. We don’t have enough of these special athletes in this town.
Still grappling with the intricacies and complexities of English, he is nonetheless managing to communicate his novel experience in hip fashion, informing the on-line world late last night of his plans to celebrate his big playoff shutout . . . by drinking milk a week before his 20th birthday.
I have an additional reason to root hard for this dynamic youth this postseason: I am in love with his mask. Have you noticed its celebration of the Hershey-Washington affiliation? Here’s a kid who prior to this hockey season spent all of his development overseas, and knew not a word of English before arriving for last July’s Development Camp, dramatically “getting it” when it comes to Washington’s hockey mission. I want this young goalie to win 15 more games this spring so that hockey fans in both communities can share in what has been a remarkable partnership of puck. Not that they wouldn’t anyway, of course, but there is something so fresh and distinctive and oh so appropriate about what Varlamov has commemorated with his headgear. It beautifully showcases the beautiful partnership that has been forged in recent years between Washington and Hershey.
Immediately after his virtuoso performance last night, Simeon Varlamov spoke with our buddy Dmitry Chesnokov of SovetskySport and Yahoo’s Puck Daddy about his special night.
Varlamov: “This morning right before the morning skate the coach told me that I would be playing.”
DC: Did you expect to play in tonight’s game?
Varlamov: “Hmm . . . I did, but usually I am told a day or so before a game whether I am playing or not. But it was different now. When I wasn’t told I thought maybe Theodore would get the nod.?
DC: After the last game you must have had a lot more confidence.
Varlamov: “Yes, I was a little bit more confident. I was skating around before the game and saw all these banners up top with all these great names like Mike Richter, Mark Messier, other players. I really wanted to win tonight. It was my first game at Madison Square Garden , and I am extremely happy. I used to watch on TV all these great games at MSG, and now I had a chance to be out there on that ice and play a game in this unbelievable atmosphere.”
DC: When did you get your first thought that you might be getting a shutout?
Varlamov: “The last five minutes of the game I was thinking about it, that it was close. I really wanted it to happen. Of course I didn’t think about it before the game, I was only thinking about the win. But with about five minutes to go I realized that I had a really good chance to post a shutout, and I didn’t want this chance to get away.”
DC: It looked like all the guys were really playing well in defense.
Varlamov: “Yes, definitely. All the guys played really well in defense as well as in attack. It was so great that all the guys converted lots of chances.”
DC: Tell us about the episode with Avery.
Varlamov: “Well, everyone knows that he skates around trying to get everyone fired up. And I know about it. We talked about it at the team meetings as well. That’s why I do not pay attention to such incidents. Yes, I know and actually saw how he was swinging his stick in front of Brodeur. I am ready for his provocations.”
“I just touched him a little bit. And that’s it. He reacted with a lot of emotion. He started yelling something. Of course, I didn’t understand half of it.”
DC: It looked like he hit you really hard.
Varlamov: “It was a good [punch]. It didn’t feel nice. But there’s nothing serious. A game is a game. My main objective is to catch pucks and concentrate on my own game and not to notice what he does.”
DC: It looked like nothing was going to throw you off tonight!
Varlamov: “I try not to react to these incidents.”
DC: After the game you let out a “Woo.”
Varlamov: “All the guys came to congratulate me. To be honest with you it felt really good. The whole team congratulated me. They even took the puck from tonight’s shutout. Now I will get a nice frame and keep it in my house.”
DC: Did you get a pie in the face after the game?
Varlamov: “No, there was nothing after the game. The guys left a lot of emotions out there on the ice. No one even thought about it. But there was a lot of media in the locker room after the game asking a lot of questions.”
DC: Of course, you’re the first star of the game.
Varlamov: “Eh, really?! Wow, that’s great! I didn’t even know.”
DC: What did the coach tell you after the game?
Varlamov: “He said ‘Good job.’ Nothing else. But what else can he say? The whole team played really well. We won tonight. And that’s the most important thing.”
DC: We will probably see you on Wednesday again now.
Varlamov: “Maybe. I don’t know. I will probably be told either tomorrow or the day after during the morning skate. Am I ready? Of course I am ready. And if I am selected to play, I will try to show a good game.”