One minute, 23 seconds is all the time it took for the Caps to induce a collective silence over the 17,000 screaming, white-clothed Penguins fans. Sixty seven minutes and 14 seconds later, however, those same 17,000 fans exemplified the exact opposite reaction after a Kris Letang overtime goal that prevented the Pens from being in a devastating 3-0 series hole.
Letang’s game-winner came on a slap shot that deflected off Caps defender Shaone Morrisonn and squeezed past Simeon Varlamov. It’s a good thing for the Pens that Morrisonn was in that particular spot because Varlamov was stopping virtually everything else the Pens threw at him.
I’m not trying to take anything away from the Pens because they outplayed the Caps for the majority of the game, but Varlamov was simply unbelievable. And if I’m going to start talking about Varlamov, I have to give him one of those cool-sounding, abbreviated hockey names, so I’ll just call him Varley.
Last night Varley showed us why Coach Boudreau pulled Jose Theodore after Game 1 of the Rangers series. Despite being only 21-years-old, Varley has been in these types of situations before. He has plenty of experience in the net and has appeared in over 100 international games including two World Junior Championships as well as two Under-18 championships.But even with this experience you would think it would be a little nerve-racking for a 21-year-old to basically be thrown in the net in the middle of a playoff series.
Not Varley. He has been as cool as the other side of the pillow and has done something no other Caps goalie has ever done – win five consecutive playoff games. How’s that for a great start? Besides providing his team with some timely saves, he has also provided the fans with some confidence that they didn’t have when Theodore was in the net.
Now it seems like the Caps are never out of a game because Varley can make enough stops to give his offense a chance to win. The thing I love most about Varley is that he doesn’t talk much, which is probably due to the fact that he simply can’t put enough English words together to hold a conversation. This makes him even more interesting because nobody has a clue to what he is thinking.
Caps fans don’t mind this one bit, though, as long as he keeps playing at the high level he is right now. His effort in Game 3 was amazing as he totaled 39 saves while enduring constant pressure from the Pens offense, which nearly doubled the Caps effort. It seemed like every time the Pens would be in the offensive zone, the announcer’s voice would become louder to emphasize the pressure being applied.
But almost every one of his tirades would end with the words, “save by Varlamov.” It’s refreshing to hear those three words, but not 39 times. Usually when a goalie saves the puck that many times his offense isn’t getting the job done, which was the case tonight.
The Caps just didn’t seem with it offensively and they couldn’t seem to get in any type of rhythm like they did in the first two games. They will need a better effort in Game 4 if they want to avoid being tied 2-2 going back to D.C.
If you’re the Caps, you don’t want to let a team like the Penguins climb back into this series especially with Evgeni Malkin finally showing up and playing like he’s capable of playing. Let’s just hope the offense can get something going in Game 4 and Varley is able to stay hot in the net.