Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov was the only thing standing in the way of Jakub Vrana lifting the Washington Capitals to their first win in their first-round series Sunday afternoon.
As a 1-1 game went into overtime, Vrana jumped out on a breakaway after knocking down Andy Greene’s shot. The Capitals left winger unloaded a hard shot that Varlamov stopped with his pads before following up on the rebound, which Varlamov also turned aside.
On the subsequent play, Mathew Barzal buried the game-winner to give the Islanders a 2-1 victory and a 3-0 series lead.
“Every player plays a breakaway differently,” Varlamov said on a Zoom call following the win. “Some players prefer to shoot, some players prefer to make a move, as a goalie you just have to stay patient and see what the player is going to do.
“That’s what I try to do, stay patient and see what the player is going to do.”
The 32-year-old Varlamov has started every Islanders game this postseason, accumulating a 6-1 record and a .932 save percentage. He saved 22 of the 23 shots he faced Sunday, but said he felt as though it was a less active game for him.
Facing just 117 total shots during the playoffs, Varlamov has liked what he’s seen from the defense in front of him.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to stay focused because you don’t face as many shots,” he said. “When you start a game you want to make a couple good saves, you always feel good after that. Sometimes you have to wait 10 minutes to make a save, but it’s OK, I know we’re playing very good defensively. I prefer to see that from the guys.”
Head coach Barry Trotz had played both Varlmaov and current backup Thomas Greiss relatively evenly during the 2019-20 regular season, but after training camp 2.0, Varlamov earned the starting nod.
“Your goalie is your eraser,” Trotz said. “Sometimes as a coach or a team, your goaltender can erase all your mistakes. We made a couple mistakes there and Varly erased it. Getting it for him is a good process, where you want to reward your goalie for bailing you out and you can bail him out with a win when you get that opportunity.”
The Islanders went 0-for-5 on the power play as they continue to struggle with the man-advantage in the 2020 playoffs.
Nick Leddy’s power-play goal in Game 2 has been the Islanders’ lone power-play tally since the start of the first-round series with the Capitals, in which they’ve gone 1-for-14 with the man-advantage.
“They have a really good penalty kill,” Trotz said. “We had some looks and had some opportunities and didn’t bury them. It’s a little bit of both [our play and the Capitals’ play]. One thing that you find in a playoff series is you’re studying that team, they’ve had an opportunity to study our power play for some time and now you’re in a series where you’re seeing the same people, same tendencies, coaching staffs are seeing the same things.”
“There’s little adjustments we’ve been making and they’ve been making adjustments as well. A couple times we had some great looks, we just didn’t execute them quick enough because they were being aggressive on us.”
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