April 29, 2009
After making 14 saves in the Washington Capitals' Game 7 victory over the New York Rangers, rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov received a postgame gift from teammates Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
"Ovie came over to give me a hug. I opened my mouth and got a shaving cream pie in my face. My mouth was full of shaving cream," said Varlamov.
"Varly" was one hero for the Capitals in Game 7; the other was Sergei Fedorov, whose third-period goal sent Washington into the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 39 year old was playing in the eighth Game 7 of his career.
I spoke with Varlamov and Fedorov last night about the pressures of winning a challenging finale game against the Rangers and looking ahead to the highly-anticipated series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
First up is Varlamov:
Q. Did you like the present Sergei Fedorov made for your birthday by scoring a series winning goal? (Varlamov turned 21 on Monday)
VARLAMOV: Only Sergei Fedorov could have made that shot. The Great did his job. And yes, to be honest with you, I couldn't have dreamt of a better birthday present. Thanks to the team.
It was Game 7 and you still only allowed one goal. How do you do it? You're only 21.
We just have to look at the statistics. We played great in defense and the team only allowed 15 shots. I only had to work hard in the first period.
Do you ever feel nervous?
Of course I get nervous. I am not an Iron Man, especially before games. You just have to deal with your emotions. But I do get nervous.
Ovechkin said a couple of days ago that you don't care whether it is a Game 1 or a Game 7 and you get ready for every game the same.
Of course it is not the same. I look at the stats, but I try to get ready and motivate myself as if it's just another game.
Bruce Boudreau said that it should not be forgotten that you played in the playoff finals in the Russian Superleague, and that prepared you for the NHL.
It is true, of course. It is helping me a great deal. For two years, I played in the playoffs in Russia with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. And this experience is helping me a lot right now.
Last year in Russia you lost your final game of the finals against Salavat Yulaef. Were you worried about déjà vu and losing here?
Actually, I was. I even thought about it during the game. I lost Game 5 last year in Russia, and the score was the same: 1-1 through the first two periods. But I made a mistake in that game in the third period. And this time around I came out for the third period and tried not to play with my stick, behind the net, to play simple and not to do too much.
What was it like for you in the pile right after the final horn?
I was extremely happy that we won this difficult series. It was not that easy.
So, will you or will you not have a proper 21st Birthday celebration?
I just did it here, with this win. We have practice tomorrow. We have to start getting ready for the next series.
I know. Isn't it something?
I heard loud noises coming from the player room. Who was so excited?
Everyone was just shocked that the Hurricanes scored with less than a minute to go in the third period. So who are we playing next? Pittsburgh? I think this will be an excellent series. I think all the fans are waiting for such a series. No? This is our key rival.
Are you ready for the series psychologically?
Why not? I am ready. Pittsburgh is a good team. What can you say? They are a great team with excellent players. I don't see any weaknesses in their team. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, you can go on listing names of great players they have on their team who can score. This will require a lot more work, for sure. But we are going to be ready.
And now, Sergei Fedorov on winning Game 7 and looking ahead to Pittsburgh:
Q. How much pressure did you personally feel during Game 7? This is because you are a veteran, a leader.
FEDOROV: I tried not to think about it. Why? Because there was a lot to do out there on the ice. But I started feeling this burden of responsibility with over four minutes left in the third period after the goal [I scored], to be honest. This is because I just wanted to win so much that this desire was just taking over, and we had to play good defensive hockey in the last minute of the game to ensure that we would progress to the next stage.
When you made that shot, when you scored, did you think the puck would go in?
I actually knew that I made a good shot. And then a second or so later I saw something blinking and I realized that the puck was in the net. Everything happened so fast. And then Alex Ovechkin knocked me off my feet.
That Alex Ovechkin jump was impressive.
Yes, he probably thought that my back doesn't hurt. But my back is actually aching. But he actually landed me on the ice very softly. Otherwise... But he was behind me and he was the first who smashed into the boards.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are your next opponent. Did it matter to you which team to play in the next round?
There are no weak opponents in the playoffs. We had a chance to be sure of that in this round. We will be facing a very good opponent, a very balanced team with a great deal of experience in the playoffs, because they played in the Stanley Cup final last year, which is extremely helpful experience-wise. This is the kind of experience you can only live to get, you cannot buy it. You have to go deep, play a lot of games to realize what the playoffs are.
Pittsburgh won't allow us to play the kind of game we were playing against the Rangers. We have to play very focused, especially in our own zone without turning over the puck.