With Semyon Varlamov Healthy, Goalie Battle Heating Up for Washington Capitals

Ryan DavenportContributor INovember 28, 2010

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 26:  Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Washington Capitals makes a save against the Tampa Bay Lightning  at the Verizon Center on November 26, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

As Thanksgiving passed and the Capitals came away with two well-earned victories over improved Southeastern Division foes, Semyon Varlamov made his case for the starting job in Washington with two statement games.  

The first came on Friday night, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose explosive offense boasts two of the league's top five scorers in Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.  

Varly pitched a 6-0 shutout, though he only faced 17 shots, as the Capitals thoroughly dominated their top challenger to the Southeast Division crown.  He followed that up with an even more impressive performance, against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.  

The most impressive aspect of Varlamov's play this weekend was his ability to make saves when it mattered most, which was on display when he robbed Canes' defenseman Ian White with a point blank save in overtime to preserve the tie.  

Battling back after allowing a late tying goal, he then stopped all three shootout attempts, making the Capitals' goaltending situation a little less clear.  

Though Michal Neuvirth has carried the load through the first 20-plus games, he has started to show some signs of wear.  His current injury situation has thrust Varlamov back into the spotlight, and the young Russian has excelled in Neuvirth's absence.  

The team's weekend performances were not only big confidence boosters for Varlamov, but also for a Capitals team that had endured a rough patch, in which they had won just 1 of their previous four games.  

With a more competitive Southeast Division, each game matters more than before, and Varlamov's strong outings proved again that the Capitals have two formidable young goaltenders.