Doug Pensinger - Varly

This guy. (Photo: Doug Pensinger)

The Capitals kind of blew it on Saturday night. Easing off the metaphorical gas in the third period, they gave the Coyotes the opportunity to tie the game and end Washington’s winning streak. That was a disappointment and perhaps reason to lower expectations for Sunday night’s date with the Colorado Avalanche. The back half of back-to-back games, following an overtime loss, played in a city where it’s apparently hard to breathe or something: those are the excuses we might sling around to explain the Caps’ performance. Regardless, they definitely weren’t the better team on Sunday, and despite a good rally in the third period, this was pretty much all Avalanche, all the time.

Cody McLeod chipped up the puck up high to beat Braden Holtby in the first. Joel Ward crashed the net to tie it up in the second, but Nick Holden was like nu-uh and tied it back up 30 seconds later. The Capitals couldn’t score on a longer power play, and then P.A. Parenteau put the Avs up 3-1. Gabriel Landeskog got the dagger with under two minutes left.

Avalanche beat Caps 4-1.

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Varly1

Varly's teammates congratulate him on the win. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

Varly’s teammates congratulate him on the win. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

Photo credit: Patrick Smith

In April 2009, a young Russian goalie by the name of Simeon Varlamov started game two of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals after number one netminder Jose Theodore’s poor game one. The 21-year-old didn’t speak passible English, sported a unibrow, and soon became the talk of the NHL.

Varlamov allowed one goal in his first game and posted a shutout the next. In six games versus the New York Rangers, Varlamov allowed a mere seven goals. Though the Caps would eventually lose to the Penguins in game seven of the semifinals, it appeared that Washington had found their goalie of the future. But two years later, Varlamov (with the spelling of his name now changed to Semyon) was unceremoniously sent to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of draft picks.

Varly had become Washington’s main goalie after Theodore departure, but after battling groin injuries as an explosive, athletic goaltender, he struggled to get back in the crease when healthy. Bruce Boudreau, the Caps coach at the time, seemed to favor fellow 2006 draft pick Michal Neuvirth. With his contract up at the end of the 2011-12 season, Varly wanted to be assured of starting spot. The Caps weren’t interested in that. On July 1, Varlamov was sent to Colorado. He signed a three-year contract with the team the next day.

Now, three years later, Varly was back in Washington to face Neuvirth for the first time. At least in the first round, he came out on top.

“I was so nervous,” Varlamov said in much improved English, as his teammates cheered him on in the background. “Lots of memories to play here. That was my first game since I left Washington, that’s why I think I’m too nervous in warmup. My legs were shaking. All of the first period, my legs shaking.”

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Disaster Game: Avs beat Caps By a Lot

Patrick Smith

Photo: Patrick Smith

Disaster game. The Capitals had just one win going into Saturday’s thing with Colorado, a shootout win over a reliable bottom-5 team. Despite that and the team’s myriad weaknesses, we had good feelings going into this one.

Nope.

John Carlson started the game off with an own-goal, tipping in a centering pass from Alex Tanguay past Michal Neuvirth. Matt Duchene made it 2-0 for the Avs a few minutes later, roofing the puck after a duel with Karl Alzner.

Human baby Nate McKinnon scored his first NHL goal while the Caps were being penalized for being too manly.

Tanguay got a shorty early in the third period as the game descended into burn-the-tape territory, but soon after that Eric Fehr finally beat Varlamov with a quick shot set up by Jason Chimera. The glimmer of hope lasted all of 20 seconds before Jamie McGinn made it 5-1 for Colorado. That’s how it ended.

Avs beat Caps 5-1.

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Trade: Steve Downie Somehow Turns Into a First-Round Pick

If we had entitled this “Steve Downie Involved in Three-Way”, you never would have clicked on it, but that’s exactly what happened this afternoon. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Tampa Bay has traded Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Kyle Quincey, and then traded Kyle Quincey to the Detroit Red Wings for a first-round draft pick and prospect Sebastien Piche.

Steve Downie has a cap hit of $1,850,000 and will bring with him his charming personality and 121 season penalty minutes, while the Detroit has acquired Quincey and his $3,125,000 cap hit, who they originally drafted in 2003, and lost on waivers in 2008.

We’re obviously very broken up about Steve Downie leaving the division and will deeply miss seeing his face six times a year. We’ll make it through this somehow. The real question is, who’s going to tell Semyon Varlamov about his new teammate?

Waste of a Saturday Night: Avs beat Caps 2-1

Check out Brooksy’s face. (Photo credit: Michael Martin)

The Washington Capitals headed to the mile-high city to meet the Colorado Avalanche with hopes of a perfect road trip. NOPE.

Cody McLeod chipped the puck from the blue line; Neuvy didn’t even see it. Alex Semin scored his first goal since November 23 with a really smart wrister. Erik Johnson snapped his own goal drought just a minute later. That was the GWG. Avs beat Caps 2-1.

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Colorado Avalanche Pregame: Denver Vortex Sutra

In 1972 Doug Johnson was sent to prison by a military court for a crime he didn’t commit. He promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, he survives as soldier of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire the Puck Buddys.

The Puck Drop: Caps fans and booze-hounds, rejoice! We proudly announce this season’s newest, bestest, most assured to get you F’d up cocktail! The Rockin’ Red Flame Out! Directions: grab some high-priced this, pretend to add some top-shelf that, splash with vaguely European liquor, shred ice, and shake! Mix! Toss about round n’ round! Throw in a blender and oscillate! Back and forth, back and forth, up and down, over and over and over again! That’s the spirit!

Drink and regret. Clean out your blender from top to bottom (well, don’t go nuts) and repeat. Mmm…now that’s satisfaction.

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Nail Yakupov: Why Caps Fans Should Root for the Avs to Tank

Nail Yakupov

When George McPhee traded Semyon Varlamov to Colorado in early July, not only did he gain the roster flexibility to sign Vezina-hopeful Tomas Vokoun to a discounted one-year pact, he also netted two valuable assets from the Avalanche: a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013.

In a year’s time, Colorado could seriously regret this deal. Why? With two injury-prone goalies in Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and an offense that has few proven scorers, the Avalanche could fall into the lottery or possibly even finish dead-last in the West. That would give the Capitals a chance to pick in the top five for the first time in five years (they nabbed Karl Alzner fifth overall in 2007). It also presents McPhee and company with a shot at bringing a new Russian superstar to DC. His name: Nail Yakupov.

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All photos by Sweetest Hockey On Earth’s Kyle M.

On July 1st — the first day of Free Agency — the Capitals dealt 23-year-old Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a first-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft and a second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013. After weeks of speculation that pointed to Varly not returning to Washington and even potentially landing in the KHL, the Avalanche submitted an offer that General Manager George McPhee couldn’t refuse.

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The Homestand From Hell: Avs beat Caps 3-2

This was pretty much the scene all night. The Caps tried with all their might, but could not score.

No goal. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Matt Bradley tosses his mitts and fights Cody McLeod. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

Matt Bradley drops the gloves with Cody McLeod. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin)

EVEN LATER UPDATE 12/12 1PM: Per Bob McKenzie, Alex Semin has been fined for his crosscheck on COL’s John-Michael Liles, and will play tonight against NYR.

UPDATE 12/11 11:50PM: Dmitry Chesnokov heard that Alex Semin will not be suspended.

Let’s get the hell out of town. The Washington Capitals have lost five games in a row, four of them at home base. The Colorado Avalanche brought their fast-paced offense to town as Washington tried to re-awake theirs. Despite showing more effort than in recent games, the Caps failed to stop, drop, shut em’ down, open up shop.

Kevin Shattenkirk got lucky with an early goal that Michal Neuvirth should have stopped. Mike Knuble responded with his 250th career goal, a typical Knuble score from inches out. Tom Poi was woefully out of position, allowing Ryan Wilson to waltz in and score the go-ahead goal. Piling on was Paul Stasny, who converted on the powerplay. Matt Hendricks launched a comeback with a no-looker from the crease, but the home team ran out of time. Avs beat Caps 3-2.

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GMGM to Scott Hannan: You. Complete. Us.

The Capitals traded Tomas Fleischmann for Avs Defenseman Scott Hannan

Either the rumors were true, or even a blind squirrel bumps into a nut sometimes. In the end, Tomas Fleischmann is now a mile high, traded to the Colorado Avalanche for blueliner Scott Hannan.

If we look at the trade from Flash’s point of view, it’s a great move. He goes to a team that wants him, most likely to fill a Top 6 spot left vacant when leading scorer Chris Stewart broke his hand in a fight with Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what a player needs to get back on track. RMNB wishes him the very best.

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