Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals was billed as Alexander Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby. But by the end of the series, will we be talking more about Simeon Varlamov vs. Evgeni Malkin?
Varlamov made what some are calling the save of the season on Crosby, and had 34 saves in the 3-2 win. Malkin had only had two shots on goal, but did the heavy lifting on Mark Eaton's game-tying goal in the second period.
I spoke with both players after Game 1 to talk about Capitals' win and what to expect in the coming games. First up is Malkin:
Q. In a few words, how would you describe today's game?
MALKIN: It was a good game. I hope all fans enjoyed it. Both teams played an even game, a good game. Neither team had a great advantage over the other. Washington was just a bit lucky I think.
How important is this first game of the series? And how can it affect the outcome of the series?
The series is long and it would be wrong to say that the first game is the most important. Of course, it would have been nice to win the first game to get that confidence. But there are also positives in defeat.
The Penguins did not play that well against the Capitals this season. Is this fact in the Penguins players' heads?
Of course not. And we proved today that hockey is different during the regular season. And today was a playoff game and I think we had a lot more chances to win [that the Capitals]. Let's talk about it after the final result. But in no way is it in our heads, because these games are just very different.
Washington with Varlamov in goal and Washington with Theodore in goal: are these two different teams?
The Capitals are just a strong team period. But Varlamov just caught his game. And of course, when your goaltender is playing great it is shifted to all the other players on the team. If Varlamov catches everything, their players rush ahead and score. That's why these are different teams.
Your power play today was not great. What can you say about it?
We have to give it some thought. It is difficult to say anything right now because the game just ended. But we will have to look at it closely, think about it, and hope that next game the power play will be better.
What about officiating in today's game?
I don't pay any attention to referees and such. The game was officiated the way it was officiated.
In the third period Washington were assessed a few penalties while your team got none.
We didn't buy off the refs. [Jokingly]. So I don't know what to say.
It was difficult to notice you on the ice today. Are you feeling alright?
I feel great! Got enough sleep. I just played the [best] I could.
How different is Washington when compared to the Flyers? Can you compare the two series?
All teams are different. What's the point of comparing them? This is a different team with different players. They play a very offensive hockey, with a different goaltender. I wouldn't compare the two teams.
And now, a few words with Varlmanov:
Q. Was this the best save of your career?
VARLAMOV: One of the best. To be honest I cannot remember all of my saves.
Did you and the goaltending coach work on how to play against Crosby?
Yes we did.
You didn't play a lot of games in the NHL, and didn't face a lot of the great players in the league. But until now, is Crosby the best player you have played against in the NHL?
I don't want to offend all the players I played against in the league, like Kovalchuk and other guys. But I came out on the ice today and saw Malkin, saw Crosby standing there - the players I hadn't played against until then - of course I was pleased to be there but I was also concerned about them most of all at the same time.
Malkin was a bit invisible on the ice today. Or wasn't he? For you.
I don't want to upset him. But [he wasn't] very noticeable.
You withstood the pressure in the first period. Do you think the Penguins will put even more pressure on you in the second game?
I think it won't be easier in the next game. Definitely not. The first period of the next game will probably be the key to the entire game. I think the Penguins will put even more pressure on us. They are a great team with great leaders and a lot of good players. It will be even tougher for us on Monday and in the entire series.
They made 36 shots on goal in Game 1. They have the two guys who are amongst the league leaders in scoring Malkin and Crosby. They are two of the most dangerious players in the entire league.
On the second goal, did someone tell you that it didn't touch Gordon's stick, or you saw it all the way?
I saw it myself. Trust me, a goaltender can see the puck very well all the way after it is shot, every bounce, every deflection. Of course not when there is someone in front of you. It hit me in the catching glove... To be honest my glove is so messed up.
How long have you been using the glove?
A couple of months.
Is it the same glove you used in New York when you tried twice to stop the puck before Drury scored?
Yes, it was. But don't put everything on the glove, don't concentrate all of your attention on it.