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Varlamov about Roy, Colorado and difficult times

Published 12.04.2023 16:34 GMT+3 | Author Pavel Lysenkov
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Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov skates onto the ice for the quarter-final against Finland at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Russian Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov has not given many interviews recently. We spoke to him when he joined the Russian national team.

Is it difficult to change your game when you move from the NHL to Europe?
It’s completely different hockey here. A different speed, players think differently. The game style differs much from that of the NHL. You need time to adapt. They shoot a lot, then go to the net and block the goalkeeper’s view. Here the players pass more into the zone and do not start attacking after a shot. That’s what you need to get accustomed to. Sometimes you wish to sit on the pads early but you should not do so. They can pass and you will quickly lose.

Ilya Bryzgalov said: “Either I’m the first goalie of the Russia team, or simply don’t call me to the World Championship”. Is there such a rule for top goalkeepers? You didn’t refuse to be on the same team with Sergei Bobrovski.
I agree with the fact that everyone wants to play the whole tournament. But you cannot be selfish and think only about yourself. If you are on the national team, then think about the team and the victory. The tournament lasts for only two-and-a-half weeks. Actually, I do not believe that there is a number one or a number three in the national team. We are all here to win the gold medal.

Why didn’t Colorado make the playoffs?
We had a tough season. We failed the first two months of the regular season. I was not up to the game, the team was not in best shape. We lost a lot of points against teams, which we had to beat. At the end we lost six out of six games. Injuries got in the way when Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon were sidelined. It’s the same like removing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews from the Chicago roster or Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn at Dallas.

How did your coach Patrick Roy behave during that losing streak? Did he kick the trash cans in the locker room with anger?
Roy is very emotional. However, he has changed since he worked in the Quebec junior league. He is very composed with us. No, the trash cans were not kicked. Patrick tried to quietly develop the game, cheer up the guys. He's actually great in doing so. He never pours out his anger on hockey players compared to other coaches. He never put pressure on the players but helps you to reach a new level and to show your best qualities.

Right now, your old club Washington Captails seems to be the main favorite in the race for the Stanley Cup.
Yes. We played two games against the Capitals this season. Those were the hardest games we played. It has never been that hard. Washington plays really well on offence, they put a lot of pressure. Their goalkeeper Braden Holtby is very reliable this year. I wanted him to beat the record of Martin Brodeur for victories in a season. Holtby finally caught up with Marty.

Did you met him at the Capitals?
Yes, during my third season. He is a very athletic goalkeeper. He begins and ends the game in the same style. He never loses physically and never looks weak. When Holtby started at Washington, I think he had some psychological problems. He had a few unlucky games. But he got rid of this problem now. He has to win the Vezina Trophy. And maybe he will also win the MVP title, as Carey Price did last year.

Patrick Kane will not give it up.
He also deserves it, just like Alexander Ovechkin, who scored 50 goals. It is more and more difficult to do so in the NHL each year.

Is it difficult to play when everyone is expecting Russia to win the gold?
Pressure is always there at World Championships and Olympic Games. You cannot escape that. It is created by the fans, journalists and people around hockey. Our mission is to renounce all of that and concentrate on our targets. That’s the hardest part. Many of us read the news and recaps. And it should not be done at any cost. Today they love you and tomorrow they hate you and the day after they say: “It’s time for him to quit hockey!”

Was the strongest pressure on you in Sochi when you lost the quarter-final against Finland?
I prepared myself for the game against the Finns as usual. I was calm and was not thinking about anything. I concentrated on the game. The Olympics is history now. The tournament is over. Everything has been discussed about who was right and who was wrong. We must look to the future. I hope there will be many tournaments and victories in my career.

Tell us about the impressive open-air game held in Denver in February.
I experienced that five years ago while playing for Washington against Pittsburgh. They actually wanted to postpone the match due to bad weather. It was raining. In February, in the morning, the temperature was 20°C. But the weather in Denver changes fast due to the high altitude. It is at 1500 m above sea level. And in the evening the temperature would drop to five degrees.
Actually, it turned out to be a spectacular hockey game. When will we ever again have the chance to play in the open air at a baseball stadium supported by 60,000 fans?

You also had some difficult times when your ex-girlfriend Yevgenia Vavrinyuk filed a case against you two times. How did this affect your life?
Do you know the phrase: “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” It is about me. People, who have tried to tarnish my name, have been punished. I went to the civil court. Two years before that to a criminal court. I won at both instances. I am very glad that this story has ended. And I can forget about this nightmare. The most interesting part is that it can happen to anyone. None of us is immune, especially in America. There, the laws are sometimes strange. It's great that this is all behind me and I can now focus solely on hockey. I live and enjoy life. I cannot say that I will now avoid girls. But in a certain way, I have become more careful.


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