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Author: Dinara Kafiskina (Sport Day After Day)
Translated By: Eugene Belashchenko
Date: 11/20/2008
Semen Varlamov (Washington Capitals): Itís tough without a coach

2009 U20 World Junior Championships

Russian national team goalie Semen Varlamov (Washington Capitals) could have left Lokomotiv for NHL even earlier. But a year ago he decided to wait and gain more experience in the Russian league. This season he decided to take the risk.

- Washington is a great city that is very beautiful Ė Semen shared his impressions with us Ė I definitely would want to live there and play for the Capitals

How did your NHL career start?
S. Varlamov: When I came to Washington, at first I practiced by myself, then with oother prospects during the training camp and only then with the main team. There were about 30 prospects and all the players from the farm-clubs were also at the training camps. So, the competition from the first day was very intense and I understood that it was not going to be easy.

Why did you end up in the farm club.
S. Varlamov: I did not play badly during the scrimmages, but I unfortunately suffered a groin pull during the preseason game against Caroline. After that I couldnít practice on the ice for a couple of weeks. The coach called me in and told me that I impressed him during the camp, but due to the injury it would be better for me to play for the farm club, get better and gain some experience. There is no reason to keep me around as a third goalie in the NHL. So, in the beginning of October I moved to the city of Hershey, about an hour and a half away from Washington.

What is the difference between the hockey in Russia and North America?
S. Varlamov: In the NHL the game is much faster than in Russia. Everyone passes very well. The goalie must always leave the net and must stickhandle well, helping defensemen. For example, he needs to be able to stop the puck by the boards. My goal is to correctly re-direct the puck, so it would be easy for the defensemen to get it and to quickly give out an outlet pass. If a defenseman spends too much time trying to get control of it, then he might get plastered into the boards. Here they shoot from any and every position Ė through a screen, from the blue line, without any angle. You must be ready for everything.

There is an opinion that it is more difficult for a goalie to secure a spot than for a player in any other position...
S. Varlamov: I agree, here the competition is very heated. There were five goalies just at the prospect camp in Washington. They are all about the same age and all look very impressive. I wouldnít say that I significantly stood out amongst them.

Is it difficult to become the starter?
S. Varlamov: Yes, and by my impression, you need to at first become the top goalie with the farm-club and only then can you set out to conquer the NHL. By the way the level of play in the AHL is quite impressive. Here you often face 35-40 shots each game. If a player in any other position may not be worth coming here [to the AHL from Russia], it is definitely great training for the goalies. For example, our team has two very strong lines that play real hockey and donít simply dump the puck out of the zone. There are a lot of smart players playing in the farm leagues too.

Are there any drawbacks to playing in the AHL?
S. Varlamov: The main drawback is that not a single AHL club has a goalie coach, unlike the NHL clubs. Itís difficult without them. It ends up that you have to train yourself.

When you recover, is there a chance that you would return to the NHL?
S. Varlamov: They already told me that I am considered to be in the NHL. In a month or so, if everything goes well, I should get a chance to continue my career in the NHL.

How were you welcomed to Washington?
S. Varlamov: Great, since the club has a number of Russian hockey players: Viktor Kozlov (New Jersey Devils), Alexander Semin (Washington Capitals), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals). I didnít have any problems and spent most of my free time with our guys. In Washington I often visited Ovechkin. Hi mother fed me and I am very grateful to her!

Are you lonely in America?
S. Varlamov: It would have been lonely if I was alone. But I am here with my dad. He came for a month and then my mom and my sister will replace him here. So they will take their turns keeping me company. I will definitely not be alone here. There is not much to do here. I am renting a really nice apartment, but next to me there is not much but roads and fields. Itís quite terrible if you donít have a car. I am glad that Seminís and Ovechkinís friends helped me buy a Lexus recently. Now I can make it down to Washington when needed. Also 30 minutes away is Harrisburg, where there is also something to see.

So Hershey does not really impress you that much?
S. Varlamov: Not really. After the large cities in Russia it is difficult to adjust to Hershey. It is very small. There are not many sights or tall buildings. Just many two story houses. Hershey can be compared to some Russian small towns. The only thing that there is here is a chocolate factory which makes very delicious chocolate under the same name as that of the town. The city is famous for it. This chocolate is sold across the world.

How do you like itís taste?
S. Varlamov: Itís great!

So there is nothing more to see in the city besides the chocolate factory?
S. Varlamov: There is also a modern hockey palace. It was built about four years ago and fits about ten thousand people. Itís not better than the one in Yaroslavl though Ė ours is cooler.

What do you do in your free time?
S. Varlamov: There isnít really anywhere to go out here, though recently we had a Halloween party. I dressed up as Zorro and I laughed pretty hard when I saw how everyone else was dressed. It was a lot of fun. But besides that I spent most of my time with my dad at home. I also browse the web, follow my Lokomotiv and Washington and read up on everything hockey related.

Dinara Kafiskina Ė Sport Day After Day (translated by Eugene Belashchenk of RussianProspects.com

Related Player Profiles: . V.Kozlov A.Ovechkin A.Semin S.Varlamov
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