Varlamov speaks to media, childhood dream was to play for Avalanche

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One week after the July 1st trade that brought Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche, he was formally introduced to the Denver media. In addition to performing the entire press conference (and subsequent interview session) in English, the 23-year-old Russian netminder surprised most people in attendance by telling everyone that his “childhood dream was to play for the Avalanche.” It shouldn’t be shocking considering the quality of the Avalanche teams during his formative years. None the less, it’s always fun to hear that a player dreamt of playing for a team that was the 2nd worst team in the league last season.

“It’s funny, but its true… my childhood dream was to play for the Avalanche.

And here’s the rationale:

“My favorite NHL player and NHL goalie played here. Patrick Roy. They’ve had lots of good players playing here, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote. They had lots and lots of good players.”

Here’s the entire press conference and highlights from the media scrum afterwards (via the Avalanche’s official site):

It’s good to hear that he’s excited because he has plenty of work ahead of him. After making the playoffs in 2009-10, the Avalanche saw their season fall off of a cliff in 2010-11. An optimist will tell you that they didn’t even finish last in their own division. A realist will point out that only one team finished with a worse record—marking the second time in three seasons they had a top 3 pick in the draft. To make matters worse, they traded John-Michael Liles to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a draft pick and only added Jan Hejda and Chuck Kobasew to the team for next season. Unless Varlamov does his best Craig Anderson circa 2009 impression, it’s hard to see how the Avalanche are going to compete for a playoff spot.

At least Varlamov has a job in the NHL. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post asked Varlamov if there was a chance that he was going to go to the KHL:

“Uh, no. I don’t want to talk about that right now. It’s none of my business. I just want to talk about the Avalanche.”

Ignoring the ridiculous “it’s none of my business” part of the quote, he’s making a concerted effort to move onto his future with the Avs. Within the interview package, Varlamov said that he plans on staying in North America for another month, will head to Russia to visit family for a couple of weeks, and then return in mid-August to get ready for the season. For a man who was rumored to be heading to the KHL, he’ll be seeing much more of North America in the coming year than his native Russia.

Varlamov said that he has no idea who’s going to be the number one goalie, but it’s safe to assume that he’ll be given every opportunity to earn the starting job in training camp. JS Giguere and he both want the #1 spot, but the Avalanche didn’t give up a 1st and 2nd round pick for Varlamov just so he could sit on the bench.

The Avalanche think they have their franchise netminder for the future. Now it’s just time for him to prove it.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.