Colorado crushes collapsing Caps


For some time, Washington Capitals fans crowed about how much their team won the trade that sent Semyon Varlamov to Colorado. One can still debate that point, but the former Caps goalie enjoyed cold revenge on Saturday, as his Avalanche crushed Washington 5-1.

Caps fans might just miss Varlamov, too, as he’s starting the 2013-14 season red-hot while both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth flounder in D.C.

Neuvirth was the victim tonight, allowing five goals on 28 shots. Colorado beat him three times at even-strength, once on the power play and even once shorthanded.

It’s super early, but some Caps fans might weep at how their goalies are comparing to Varlamov so far:

Varlamov, 25: 4-0-0, .970 save percentage, 1.00 GAA
Holtby, 24: 0-3-0, .873 save percentage, 4.04 GAA
Neuvirth, 25: 1-1-0, .893 save percentage, 3.30 GAA

Washington’s top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson has been a bright spot to start, but they had a rough night, combining for a -8 rating and zero points. Eric Fehr scored the shutout-spoiling goal in the third period.

Meanwhile, the Avalanche continue to ride high, improving their record to 5-0-0 as their goaltending remains hot and their offense continues to be dangerous and diverse (2013 first-rounder Nathan MacKinnon scored his first goal of the season and added his fifth assist).

Varlamov won’t be able to maintain a .970 save percentage much longer, and at least one of Washington’s goalies should start figuring things out, but the two teams seemed to be headed in starkly different directions on Saturday.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.