Semyon Varlamov

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


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.

Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

Connor Hellebuyck
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games


The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

Bruce Boudreau is bummed:

Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

Update: Washington managed a 4-2 win, giving the Capitals a four-game winning streak.

That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

/ominous music plays

If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

/even more ominous music

The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?

The ghost is here: Another OT-winner from Flyers’ Gostisbehere

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Here’s an easy way to remember how to spell Shayne Gostisbehere’s maddening last name (and even his first name can trip you up).

Ghost-is-be-here, without the h.

Not too bad, right?

If you’re more of the slogan type, it’s getting to be the point where “Tough to spell, tougher to stop” may be a pretty good one-liner.

The Philadelphia Flyers phenom has made a habit of scoring overtime game-winning goals on the power play lately. Friday’s version was the decisive tally in a 3-2 OT win against the Nashville Predators, which you can watch up top.

As you can see in comparing that goal with the one below (which made the difference against the Carolina Hurricanes), opposing coaches may want to make it a point to emphasize stopping this setup, even if it means writing “Don’t let that Ghost kid free.”

All three of his goals are on the power play so far.

Will he breathe life back into the Flyers’ man advantage at this rate?