Almost a month ago to the day, Semyon Varlamov stood in net as the Capitals lost, 7-0, to the New York Rangers in what would be the lowest point of their eight-game skid in December. The goals weren't all his fault -- some the result of redirections and screens -- but allowing seven goals against can be tough to move past for any goaltender, let alone a 22-year-old one.
"That kind of outcome was very hard," Varlamov said through a team translator. "But it happens to every goalie; not just myself, but even [Martin] Brodeur and all those guys. I moved on and as a team we recovered and started playing much better defensively."
That contest is now far in the rearview mirror for the Capitals and for Varlamov as well, particularly after the past five starts, during which he is 4-0-1. For both Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, who has shown a developing ability to buckle down in games after giving up an early goal, some of the biggest lessons to be learned in their first full NHL season is how to respond from disappointing losses or react to goals against.
"When you get scored on the first 50 times, every goal hurts. Then you get scored on for 100 goals, and 101st doesn't hurt as much," Capitals' goaltending coach Arturs Irbe said. "It's just experience, and some guys are better suited to deal with that at the early stages of their careers. I think Michal is really really good at that; he lets things go, he can move on. Varly is a guy that is so focused, so demanding of himself, it can take longer. You can't tell which is better, but they're both learning how to respond. As a goalie, you will be remembered by how you respond."