Caps Fall, Rangers Lead Series 1-0 ... DCPSR endorses Varlmov
The Washington Capitals crushed the New York Rangers in shots on goal (35-21). Crushed the New York Rangers in face offs (46-20). Crushed the Rangers in power play opportunities (7-4). But, the Rangers walked out of the massively loud Verizon Center last night with a 1-0 series lead after defeating the Caps 4-3. And before we lay all the blame on Jose Theodore, how about the weak defensive play of Jeff Schultz? Can you say ... healthy scratch please? Please Coach Boudreau, get Pothier back on ice and sit Schultz. Ok, back to Theo, or is it?
The question heading into the playoffs was the same question all season for Capitals playoff hopes --- the play between the pipes. Jose Theodore allowed 4 goals in 21 shots, a performance unacceptable to him and HC Bruce Boudreau.
"For playoff hockey, obviously, [I was] not good enough," Theodore said. "They only had a couple of shots in the first, and after that, I tried to find a rhythm. I'm not happy with my game. I wasn't good enough. But in the playoffs, you bounce back and that's it -- you have to turn the page.
and Coach Boudreau agreed.
"He's right," Boudreau said when he was told that Theodore accepted the blame for the loss. "You need the save and he didn't make the save. But I'm sure he's going to bounce back. He's a professional. He's played this game long enough, I'm sure he feels bad enough."
The Caps simply can not afford averaging goal tending in the playoffs. They need superb goal tending. The Caps know full well, on any given night against the Rangers, they are playing one of the best goalies in the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist. Scoring opportunities won't be coming in big chunks. Lundqvist will make those amazing saves, as he did last night. So the Capitals net minders must rise to that level. That is not what they got last night from Theo. Coach Boudreau faces a decision. My bet is, Boudreau will of course resoundingly declare confidence in Theo and give Theo another go.
But, here is the difficulty of that decision. What if Theo is average again and the Caps fall down 2-0 and have to travel to New York? Are the Caps then going to turn to rookie net minder Simeon Varlamov in New York, in the playoffs? Should Boudreau turn to Varly now, in front of a warm, receptive home crowd? It's a tough, tough decision. Tough because every single fan, player, and coach knows full well Varly is the net minder of the Capitals future. He is also NHL ready with a few minor flaws to work out, such as playing the puck. Do you turn to him now, is the future now or still a bit off?
Mike Wise wonders if Boudreau is going to have that confidence in Theo, a goalie who has bore the brunt of criticism, before, in several NHL cities.
Theodore has exactly one person who can save him today, and it's unclear if Bruce Boudreau has that kind of belief in his starting goalie anymore. Who could blame the coach? Theodore's performance forced Boudreau to make one of the seminal decisions of his young NHL coaching career barely 60 minutes into the 2009 postseason.
The change has been mulled over in the organization for a while, and Theodore last night brought to bear all his liabilities and then some -- thinking ahead to the rebound instead of concentrating on the oncoming slap shot, standing there flat-footed during the most important moments of the season thus far -- that might have forced Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee to pull the plug.
If Theodore gives up a goal or two that has viewers in Hershey or Halifax shaking their heads, it's time to make the move. If he can weather Game 2 and secure a win, maybe his psyche and skills are salvageable for the long run.
Either way, there was real worry after Game 1 that was palpable in the corridors leading to the locker room. And it wasn't just about the goaltender.
Count me in as a Boudreau stick with Theo guy. As hard as it may be, as difficult as it is, Boudreau will likely give one more life line to Jose Theodore. If not, I will be stunned, but pleasantly so.
Count me in as one of those guys like some in the Washington front office brass, that now, is the time for the future. Down 1-0, there is plenty of time to win this series, a win on Saturday would do wonders, but the Caps should do it with Simeon Varlamov in the net. The future is now, it has arrived, and Varlamov is ready. Pull the plug coach.
I would much rather see Varlamov grow his confidence in the friendly confines of Washington DC and the Verizon Center than the potential of going to New York, down 2-0, in a hostile, hostile New York City arena. A win in DC with Varly in Net would rejuvenate not only the players and give confidence to Varly himself, but renew confidence behind the bench in the Washington Capitals coaching staff, a confidence that I don't think is there anymore with Theo.
Varlamov is 4-0-1 with a 2.37 GAA and a save percentage of .916. He is good. Damn good. I would rather rest my playoff hopes in the kid who will mind the net for the next decade.
Washington DC knows the winds of change more than any City in the USA. In a year of profound change, a changing of the guard, the time has come to spread that change to the Verizon Center. The future is the present. The Caps rose the youth to the playoffs last year, now it is time to do it again. The winds of change are blowing.
DCPSR endorses Simeon Varlamov for Goalie!