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Rosner Report: A Breakdown of Semyon Varlamov’s Struggles in Loss to Capitals



New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

New York Islanders starting netminder Semyon Varlamov had been off to a strong start this year. Even after suffering a heart-wrenching loss on Tuesday, the Islanders were confident enough to put him back in goal on Thursday against the Washington Capitals again.

The night went far from how Varlamov and the Islanders envision. The Russian netminder surrendered five goals on the way to a 6-3 loss.

Early on in the game, it seemed that Varlamov had shaken off the Justin Schultz game-winning goal from two nights ago. He only faced eight shots in the first period, but was called upon to make some tough saves when the Islanders found themselves on the penalty kill. He was reading plays through screens and putting himself in the right position to make the save.

The Islanders had also put up three goals in the first period, which always makes a goaltender’s job a bit easier.

Early in the second period, we watched many Capital shots miss the net. One particular shot that caught my attention was a John Carlson one-timer at 4:03 of the second period, that sailed high and wide. Varlamov was aggressive enough to cut off the angle.

The first shot to beat Varlamov came halfway through the second period. Connor Sheary jumped on a loose puck before taking a spinning shot that beat Varlamov.

The mix of Capitals and Islanders in front gave Semyon Varlamov no clear site of where that puck had landed or where the shot was coming from. The Islanders’ defense was too lackadaisical and did not do a good enough job of clearing the front. Nothing more to say on this one.

Moments later, Sheary scored his second of the game. And like the first goal, Varlamov had zero time to react.

Carlson’s point-shot looked to be going wide before Sheary deflected the puck just under Varlamov’s blocker. If you pause the video at 0:45 seconds, you can see that Varlamov was not square.

The third goal was when the night started to get away from the Islanders, but more importantly, from Varlamov.

After the Islanders got caught, an alley-oop pass to Capitals’ forward Garnet Hathaway allowed him to break into the Islanders’ zone with speed. With Adam Pelech making his way towards the forward, Varlamov read the play knowing a shot was coming. Unfortunately, the puck found its way through.

Right away, you can tell that Semyon Varlamov wanted that one back. Pause the video at 0:33, and you can see that Varlamov is way out beyond the blue paint and played the shot as well as you can play one. However, the puck squeaked its way through his blocker-side arm, otherwise known as the ‘seven-hole’.

As a goaltender, you are taught to track the puck the whole way through. Whether the shot is going into the glove or into the corner, you follow it. If you watch from 0:40 on, you can see that Varlamov did not track the puck into his equipment. His head stayed square to the shooter, only moving towards the direction of the puck when it was way past him.

Right away, the Justin Schultz game-winner from Tuesday came to mind.

While the Schultz shot came inside the hash marks, the puck was put in the exact same spot. It would seem that the seven-hole blocker side is Varlamov’s kryptonite.

Back to Thursday night’s game, things didn’t get much better after Oliver Wahlstrom took a penalty following the tying goal. Early on in the penalty kill, Varlamov looked strong, Niklas Backstrom was given way too much room to my liking by the Islanders on the kill.

Varlamov fended off the Caps with several strong saves, but as the powerplay continued, John Carlson did his best Ovi impression. He beat Varlamov to give the Capitals their first lead of the night via the one-timer.

If you pause the video at 0:30, you can see that Varlamov is not as aggressive as he should be on this shot. He knew the shot was coming and should have been out above the blue paint to cut off as much of the angle as he possibly could. As you let the video play, you can see that it was a bit of a knuckling shot and that Pelech’s stick may have confused Varlamov. Regardless, that was a save he needed to make.

What caught Semyon Varlamov off guard more than anything was that he was ready for a cannon and the timing of the shot fooled him.

Inside the last two minutes of the second period, Varlamov allowed his fifth of the period. A Zdeno Chara point shot found its way through the screen.

A shot that probably came on net at over 100 MPH, Varlamov was not square to Chara. While it would be difficult to blame him for this goal, I do give him partial blame. The mistake Varlamov made was that he looked to his left for the shot. With Chara being left-handed and Martin in front, the only place this shot was coming was to his blocker side. This split-second decision, mistake, put him off his angle ever so slightly.

Varlamov allowed five goals on 14 second-period shots. To his relief, the struggling netminder would not have to face a single shot on goal in the third period due to the Capitals’ focus on protecting their lead.

There is no debate that Semyon Varlamov’s performance on Thursday was anything but stellar. He seemed to lose his confidence as each goal entered the net.

With back to back games coming against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday and Sunday, Varlamov will dress in one of them and get a chance at a little bit of redemption.