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Varlamov trying to follow in Dryden's footsteps

Monday, 05.04.2009 / 11:19 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Thirty-eight years ago, the Montreal Canadiens rode a rookie goaltender named Ken Dryden to an unexpected Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals hope they'll have the same success with Simeon Varlamov.

Unlike Dryden, a college star at Cornell, the 21-year-old Russian rookie wasn't designated as the playoff starter before the postseason began -- it took one game, in which Jose Theodore gave up a couple of bad goals to the New York Rangers, for Caps coach Bruce Boudreau to turn to the rookie goalie.

It might have been the move that saved the Caps' season.

Varlamov allowed just 10 goals in six games as the Capitals rallied to beat the Rangers, then made 34 stops on Saturday in a 3-2 victory against Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. One of those 34 saves -- his incredible stick stop on Sidney Crosby's apparent go-ahead goal late in the second period -- may be the best of the playoffs.

The Caps have hitched their playoff wagon to Varlamov. Could he pull a Dryden? It's not impossible.

Five up
-- Five players who had a good week in the postseason:

Eric Staal -- The eldest Staal brother has done what stars are expected to do -- step up in the clutch. After getting two goals in Carolina's season-saving win in Game 6, he stunned New Jersey by scoring with 31.7 seconds left as the Hurricanes pulled off one of the great rallies in NHL history. He added a goal and an assist Sunday night in a 3-0 victory against Boston in Game 2 of their Eastern Semifinal series.

Jonas Hiller -- Todd Marchant may have gotten the game-winner for Anaheim in Sunday's triple-OT victory at Detroit, but Hiller's 59-save performance was the reason Marchant had the chance to be the hero. He did his best work after the second period, when Anaheim was outshot 44-24.

Nicklas Lidstrom -- Why is Lidstrom a sure Hall of Famer? Check out his performance Friday night, when he set up Detroit's first goal and scored the next two -- including the game-winner in the final minute.

Ryan Getzlaf
-- Detroit hasn't been able to stop Anaheim's No. 1 center, who has five points in the first two games of the Ducks' second-round series with the Wings -- including a goal and two assists in Sunday's 4-3 triple-overtime win.

Marc Savard -- Savard has become one of the NHL's most complete centers -- without losing his scoring touch. He has seven points in Boston's first six playoff games, including a pair of goals against Carolina on Friday night.

Five down -- Five players who haven't been producing:

Roberto Luongo -- Maybe it was the long layoff between rounds, but Luongo hasn't been the same in Vancouver's series against Chicago as he was against St. Louis in the first round. Luongo has allowed eight goals in the last four periods, let a 3-0 lead slip away before the Canucks won the opener and saw a 2-0 lead in Game 2 turn into a 6-3 loss.

Petr Sykora -- Sykora dressed for Pittsburgh on Saturday against Washington after a couple of games as a healthy scratch. But he produced nothing offensively in just 11:23 of ice time and might find himself back in the press box.

Rod Brind'Amour -- Carolina has gotten into the second round of the playoffs without any scoring from its captain. Brind'Amour is pointless in nine games this spring. He saw only 11:15 of ice time in Game 2.

Blake Wheeler -- Wheeler appeared to run out of gas down the stretch in his rookie season, and he's contributed nothing offensively in the playoffs. Wheeler, a 21-goal scorer in the regular season, hasn't had a point in Boston's first six playoff games and is averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time a game.

Jordan Staal -- Pittsburgh needs scoring from Staal to keep opponents from ganging up on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- but so far, it's not happening. Staal had an assist in the Penguins' first playoff game, but hasn't had a point since then.

Injuries, news and notes

Out -- Defenseman Sami Salo remained in Vancouver for treatment on his lower-body injury and did not travel with the team to Chicago on Sunday. He's questionable for Game 3. Canucks forward Taylor Pyatt took the pregame skate before Game 2 on Saturday but was again a scratch. He hasn't played since the tragic death of his fiancée last month., and there's no word when he'll be back. ... Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski didn't dress for Games 1 and 2 against Anaheim due to an upper-body injury. Chris Chelios played in his place. ...

Returning -- Boston defenseman Andrew Ference returned for the opener of the Bruins' series against Carolina after missing four weeks with a lower-body injury. ... Anaheim forward Petteri Nokelainen returned Sunday after missing four games with an upper-body injury. ... Washington captain Chris Clark returned for Game 7 against the Rangers after missing more than three months with a wrist injury that required surgery.

Still out -- Detroit center Kris Draper has yet to play in the playoffs due to an upper-body injury. He had hoped to return against Anaheim, but didn't receive medical clearance. ... Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz did not play in the first game of the second round and isn't expected back yet. He's been sidelined with an undisclosed injury since Washington's first playoff game.

Non-playoff teams -- Philadelphia center Mike Richards' first shoulder operation was a success. He had the torn labrum in his right shoulder repaired; he'll have his left shoulder repaired in a couple of weeks. Flyers forward Jeff Carter played with a separated shoulder in Philadelphia's first round series against Pittsburgh. ... Rangers center Chris Drury says he probably won't need surgery on the broken right hand that limited him during New York's seven-game loss to Washington. ... Columbus forward Alexandre Picard and defenseman Jan Hejda both had wrist surgery last week. ... Montreal rookie Max Pacioretty underwent surgery last Wednesday to repair a tear in his abdominal wall. Another Montreal forward, Sergei Kostitsyn, had arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and Alex Tanguay is scheduled to have a shoulder operation this week after missing the Canadiens' last two playoff games and 32 regular-season games with a shoulder problem. ... Nashville forward Wade Belak underwent shoulder surgery last week. ... Dallas rookie James Neal will miss the remainder of the World Championships after being cut around the eye last Tuesday. ... Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom suffered multiple facial fractures and an apparent concussion during a game for Sweden at the World Hockey Championships. He had surgery, and the Thrashers say he should be ready for training camp. ... Minnesota defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron underwent successful back surgery last week; he's expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

The week ahead -- We're well into the second round, and with three series already even at 1-1 (Pittsburgh-Washington plays Game 2 on Monday night), there appears to be a good chance of a Game 7 or two (or more).

Games to watch

   
Pittsburgh at Washington (May 4) -- The Penguins missed a chance to steal the home-ice edge on Saturday, but the Caps will have to be better than they were in Game 1 if they hope to go to Pittsburgh with a 2-0 series lead.

Vancouver at Chicago (May 5) -- The United Center will be rocking after the Hawks rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win Game 2 at Vancouver, evening the series at 1-1.

Detroit at Anaheim (May 5)
-- It will be interesting to see if either team shows any effects from Sunday's triple-overtime game at Detroit, won by Anaheim on Todd Marchant's goal. Two days and a long flight don't provide much rest.

Boston at Carolina (May 6) -- The Hurricanes will come home to a raucous ovation for their first home game after their 4-3 comeback win against New Jersey in Game 7. They're even with the Bruins after splitting two games in Boston.

Tough/Easy week ahead

   
Boston and Carolina get an extra day off between Games 2 (Sunday) and Game 3 (Wednesday), as do the Canucks and Hawks, who played Game 2 on Saturday and don't resume until Tuesday. In contrast, Pittsburgh and Washington have the first back-to-back in the playoffs; they're scheduled to play Friday night at Mellon Arena and Saturday night back at the Verizon Center. Anaheim hosts Detroit in Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday; Game 5 isn't until Sunday in Detroit.


Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie