Young Washington netminders Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth
are set to battle it out this fall for the team’s No. 1 netminding gig. Both have displayed a great deal of ability, poise and confidence in their first two years as North American pros, and now the two are ready to vie for the top spot in goal for 2010-11.
In the midst of sweltering D.C. heat and less than a month after Neuvirth led the Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup championship for a second straight spring, Varlamov has laid claim to No. 1, in at least one sense. The 22-year-old Russian goaltender recently decided to change his uniform number from the familiar No. 40 he has worn throughout his first two NHL seasons to No. 1.
In doing so, Varlamov becomes the 12th Caps goaltender to sport the No. 1. Ron Low was the first to do so; he was between the pipes for the first game in franchise history on Oct. 9, 1974 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Brent Johnson sported the No. 1 sweater most recently in Washington, wearing it for three seasons beginning in 2005-06.
Several Capitals goaltenders of bygone seasons have donned sweaters with different digits during their days in the District. Most notably, Olie Kolzig manned the crease while wearing No. 31 and No. 35 before finally settling on the more familiar No. 37 he wore for a decade and a half.
Varlamov had been assigned No. 40 arbitrarily when he arrived for the Capitals' 2007 Development Camp. Goalies were given numbers divisible by 10 (Neuvirth, that same year, was given No. 30, which he still wears).
Varlamov has some history with No. 1. He wore it for Russia in the 2007 World Junior Championship in Sweden and for the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv KHL team he played for prior to coming to North America.
Area merchandisers will soon be stocked with new Capitals sweaters, t-shirts and other items with Varlamov’s name and new number on them.