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Bentivenga: Varlamov spectacular in first two Coliseum games

Following a 4-1 victory on Saturday night, the New York Islanders are now on level ground with the Boston Bruins in their second-round matchup. The win in game four evened the series at two games apiece. 

Last night, paired with a competitive overtime loss in game three, one Islander, in particular, has had a strong stretch of hockey over the course of the last few games. Who might this player be, you ask? Look no further than the masked man between the pipes: Semyon Varlamov.

Looking back even further to the Isles’ overtime win in game two, Varlamov began to catch people’s attention. His performance on the road in game two ultimately proved to be a preview of what he would play like as the series shifted to Long Island.

Game three was Varlamov’s best showing of the series, at least as of when this article is being written. Although another early goal was allowed in the third game (5:52 into the first period), Varlamov’s true colors began to show as the Bruins began peppering him. Boston outshot the Islanders 34-17 in the final 40 minutes of regulation, including a lopsided 21-9 shot counter in the third period. Despite the slow start, it seemed as Varlamov faced more shots, the better he got. Varlamov was arguably the only reason game three even got to overtime.

It was unfortunate to see what could be looked at as Varlamov’s lone “mistake” of game three wind up being the way the game ended. That shot from Brad Marchand was also perfectly placed, but I digress. Many fans were frustrated with Varlamov despite his strong performance in regulation, and a good number were calling for Trotz to turn back to Ilya Sorokin for game four. But as Trotz said after game three, he didn’t seem to feel the same. “Obviously, the last goal he would want back but he kept us in it,” said the Isles’ bench boss. “I don’t have any problem with his game.”

 

So with that quote, and a strong showing in game three to look back on, Varlamov was back in net for game four. And to no one’s surprise… he was fantastic. 

Varlamov was lights out good last night. For the first time this playoff season, he didn’t allow a goal on the first few shots of the game and took the Isles into the second period scoreless. In the second, however, the Bruins would get on the board first as the puck slipped away from a scramble in the crease with David Krejci banging in the rebound for his first of the postseason.

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From there, Varlamov was superb. In total, number 40 turned aside 28 shots, including 18 in the final 40 minutes of the game… not quite the massive workload he had the game prior, but a strong game nonetheless. In fact, the Islanders kept the majority of play in the Bruins’ end throughout the rest of the game. Kyle Palmieri netted his fifth of the postseason just under three minutes after Krejci’s goal to tie the game, and the Isles put the game to bed in the third after taking the lead.

One big stat to look at in this one was the Islanders’ lockdown defense in the later portions of the third, as they didn’t allow a single shot in the final 6:18 of the game. 

With only three goals allowed over the last two games, it’s safe to say Varlamov’s doubters were proven wrong so far. Now it’s a best of three series with game five in Boston on Monday. Given how he’s played in the past few games, it’s likely Varlamov will be between the pipes for game five as well.

 

 

 

 

Follow Carter on Twitter at @cbentivenga14

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