Washington Capitals (1-0-0) v. New York Islanders (0-0-0)
|Washington Capitals||1-0-0 (2019-20)||Ilya Samsonov|
|New York Islanders||5-2-0 (preseason)||Semyon Varlamov|
*Full disclosure: this might give you a headache at first, so bear with me on this one.
Washington Capitals’ newest back-up goaltender Ilya Samsonov is getting his first regular season NHL start against former Washington Capitals’ net-minder Semyon Varlamov, who now plays for former Washington Capitals’ head-coach Barry Trotz. Say that five times fast, and let me know if you can still remember who’s who.
The Washington Capitals crashed the party on Wednesday, where they played the reigning Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues on the night of their combined Home Opener-Banner Raising. After falling behind two goals to none, just eight minutes into the contest, the Capitals made a comeback in what played much like an actual Stanley Cup Playoff game. Veteran netminder Braden Holtby allowed two soft goals, one just 53 seconds into the game, and a power play goal just short of the eight-minute mark. However, a goal from none other than The ‘GR8’ Alexander Ovechkin and a 2nd period power play goal from Dmitry ‘Scorlov’ Orlov got the good guys back in the game, and it took overtime for the score to be settled. Jakub Vrana, perhaps one of the best skaters of the night for the Capitals, would be the one to break a 28-minute tie in overtime with a perfectly calculated shot that Blues’ net-minder Jordan Binnington probably wishes he could get back. 19-year old Slovakian rookie defenseman Martin Fehervary made his NHL debut, but was able to handle the pressure as good as anyone could have hoped. Mistakes were made, which are to be expected, but Fehervary proved to us all why he deserves a roster spot. And hey, if the Capitals’ coaching staff are excited about him, well we are too. A little birdy told me that Fehervary received the iconic “hard hat” after Wednesday nights’ game, which coincidentally is a Nationals’ batting helmet (Tarik_ElBashir).
Tonight, the New York Islanders will be playing in their home opener at the Nassau Coliseum, one of 27 games to be played on Long Island this season. The Islanders are currently transitioning to play the majority of their home games at the Coliseum, as opposed to Barclays Center, which has been ‘home base’ since 2015. In the meantime, work has just begun on the Islanders’ new arena, to be built at Belmont Park, Elmont, Long Island, New York. Fans are thrilled to bring Islanders hockey back to the Island, and to a considerably more commuter- and home-town fan-friendly location than both the Coliseum and Barclays Center. Last season, the New York Islanders found themselves in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, and stunned fans from around the league when they swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, only to be swept themselves by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second (yes, those Hurricanes). Over the summer, the Isles lost goaltender Robin Lehner to Chicago, who had played a pivotal role in the teams’ success during the 2018-19 season, but held on to Thomas Greiss, and acquired Semyon Varlamov from the Colorado Avalanche through free agency. Drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2006, Varlamov played 3 seasons in Washington (2008-2011), and in 2009, helped the Capitals advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1998. In 2011, Varlamov was traded to the Colorado Avalanche, where he played for 8 seasons, and given struggles with poor performance and injuries, the Russian goaltender maintained a 183-156-38 record, and averaged a .915 SV% (NHL.com).
Many Caps’ fans, just like Ilya Samsonov himself, have been anticipating this very moment for a quite a while now; the first chance to see the other Russian net-minder snag the back-up goalie spot for the Washington Capitals. Samsonov, a 2015 1st round draft pick by the Washington Capitals spent last season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, and showed lots of promise through two preseason games, both of which were tallied as wins. On September 18th, where he split a win with Vitek Vanecek, versus the St. Louis Blues, Samsonov stopped 12 of 13 shots faced, and in a stand-alone win on the 21st versus Carolina, allowed two goals on 15 shots (TheScore, Samsonov). Alex Ovechkin, with one goal through one game thus far, is by default, on pace to score 82 goals this season. We’d be satisfied with another 50-goal season, but if a goal-a-game is what it takes to win another Rocket Richard Trophy in a league with so many prolific goal-scorers, (and maybe another Art Ross… or Stanley Cup), whatever it takes, right?
Some good news on Caps’ defenseman Michal Kempny. Per Isabelle Khurshudyan, Kempny did in fact practice yesterday morning with the Capitals in a full-contact jersey, but head-coach Todd Reirden did in fact rule the blue-liner out of today’s line-up versus the Islanders (ikhurshudyan). It is to be determined if he will play in the Capitals’ home opener on Saturday, October 5th.
Finally, last year’s back-up goaltender Pheonix Copley cleared waivers, and has been loaned to the Hershey Bears.
Coverage of the game begins at 6:00pm with Caps Faceoff Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30pm, all on NBCSN/NBCSWA, with puck drop shortly after 7:00pm.
Ikhurshudyan. (2019). Kempny is out tomorrow. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ikhurshudyan/status/1179813315058556928?s=20.
NHL.com. (2019). Semyon Varlamov. Retrieved from https://www.nhl.com/player/semyon-varlamov-8473575?stats=career-r-nhl&season=null.
Tarik_ElBashir. (2019). Here’s #Caps Coach Todd Reirden casually revealing that the team hard hat is a #Nats batting helmet. It went to rookie Martin Fehervary after Wednesday’s season opening OT victory in STL. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Tarik_ElBashir/status/1179630138461478912?s=20
TheScore. (2019). Ilya Samsonov. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/players/7675.