Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau won’t name a No. 1 starter between Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov before the playoffs and he might not name one in general, writes Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post. And I, for one, think that is a perfectly reasonable plan.
It would be one thing if one goalie was staggeringly better than the other. Mainstream media writers tend to fixate on goalie wins, but for a team that scores like the Capitals, the other stats are a lot more indicative of quality netminding. Both goalies have near-identical save percentages, so to me it seems like the skill levels are fairly even. Another noteworthy point comes from El-Bashir, who mentions that three of the last four Stanley Cup winning teams changed starters on their way to championship runs.
In 2006, Carolina Coach Paul Maurice replaced Martin Gerber twice before Cam Ward, then 20 years old, carried the Hurricanes to the championship. Anaheim’s Ilya Bryzgalov was the Ducks’ starter in 2007 while Jean-Sebastien Giguere attended to family matters. Giguere returned and led the Ducks to the title. Then in 2008, Dominik Hasek started the playoffs as Detroit’s No. 1, but he was sent to the bench after two games in favor of Chris Osgood.
So, obviously, you don’t need to stick with one guy. I’ve been a fan of the 1a-1b setup for a while because I think that competition brings out the best in athletes. Sure, it might not help them sleep at night, but goalies should constantly be aware that their margin of error is small. To be fair, though, it does seem like Theodore is playing some of his best hockey right now with a 22 game steak without a regulation loss. His other numbers are what really make him an appealing “1a” though.
During his streak without a regulation defeat, Theodore, who has a history of strong second-half performances, has posted a 2.61 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. That save percentage would put him among the top seven in the league.
People make a big deal about the Capitals’ perceived weaknesses in net and on defense, but I think the team is simply average in those areas instead of being bad. When you factor in their explosive offense, all the Capitals really need is a Poor Man’s Grant Fuhr.