Report: Semyon Varlamov headed to KHL next season rather than re-sign with Capitals

2 Comments

One of the things the Capitals were going to have to face up to having a bevy of solid, young goaltenders is that one way or another they’re going to want to all find playing time. Last year, Michal Neuvirth took advantage of Semyon Varlamov being injured to more or less take the starting job away from the youthful incumbent. While injuries also allowed Braden Holtby a chance to show what he could do at the NHL level and do it well, things were shaping up to be more than a little uncomfortable for the Caps next season in goal.

As it turns out, soon-to-be restricted free agent Varlamov is apparently going to end up making things a bit easier on the Capitals as reports say that he’s going to head to Russia next season and play in the KHL.

Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov found out what was going on with Varlamov through SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov.

In the meantime, Varlamov has made a decision to leave the NHL and go to the KHL. His Russian agent Vyacheslav Makhrenskiy said the following to Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov:

“Varlamov has offers from Washington and from Russia. At this moment Varlamov chose the KHL. But exactly which club I cannot tell you.”

Whether Varlamov plays for SKA or Lokomotiv in the KHL isn’t known yet, but for now it seems that the Capitals’ crowded crease just got a little less so. With Varlamov headed to Russia, the net belongs to Neuvirth and Holtby. Neuvirth emerged as the top guy in Washington last season putting up solid numbers going 27-12-4 with a 2.45 goals against average and a .914 save percentage with four shutouts. In limited duty, Holtby did quite well himself going 10-2-2 with a 1.79 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.

Varlamov’s tenure in Washington was often interrupted by injury leading to the likes of Jose Theodore getting a lot of playing time two seasons ago and to the rise of Neuvirth and Holtby this past season. While the Caps did their due diligence to be respectful to Varlamov, it’s clear they’ve got other, better options to run with in goal and won’t have to worry about relying on Varlamov to stay healthy to move forward.

Losing Varlamov to the KHL might seem like a shot against the NHL, but in situations like this where Varlamov either gets his rights traded to another team or signs a restricted free agent deal with the Caps that sees him fighting for a job, you can understand why he’d go for the Russia pro league. Being from Russia it makes going back there a bit easier to handle. The money isn’t bad either.

For now, the Caps will now have a training camp battle that will see who gets the chance to be the #1 goalie in Washington between Neuvirth and Holtby, a battle that should prove to be a winner either way for coach Bruce Boudreau.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

2 Comments

Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

12 Comments

After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

Getty
1 Comment

Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

Leave a comment

Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.