Brent Johnson Will Start for the Washington Capitals Tonight Against Carolina

Brent Johnson, who made 42 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss at Ottawa on Tuesday, will start tonight against Carolina. José Theodore had started the five previous games.
Brent Johnson, who made 42 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss at Ottawa on Tuesday, will start tonight against Carolina. José Theodore had started the five previous games. "Theodore is still the number one goalie," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Brent came in and did well, so he's earned another start." (By Bruce Bennett -- Getty Images)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2008

One day after watching his backup goalie almost single-handedly steal a game, Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said he intends to give Brent Johnson a second straight start tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.

Boudreau dismissed the notion that there's a burgeoning goalie controversy between Johnson and José Theodore. Instead, Boudreau insisted, he plans to go with the "hot hand."

Recently, that has belonged to Johnson, who made a team-high 42 saves in the Capitals' 2-1 overtime loss to the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday. Johnson made a brilliant poke check on Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in the opening minutes and made four saves on a four-minute power play late in the second period to keep the score tied at 1.

"Theodore is still the number one goalie," Boudreau said. "Theodore started five games in a row. Brent came in and did well, so he's earned another start. I don't think [either is] going to play 10 games in a row. We're going to go with the hot hand."

The goalies' statistics support Boudreau's decision. Johnson is 1-1-2 with a 2.47 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. If he had played enough games to qualify, Johnson's save percentage would rank 11th in the NHL, while his save percentage would rank 13th. Theodore, meantime, ranks 29th in save percentage (.877) and 32nd in goals against (3.44).

"We haven't given up on Theo or anything, or think anything less of him," Boudreau added. "Right now, Brent played really well [Tuesday] night, so I've got to believe he's earned another start" tonight.

Capitals goaltending coach Dave Prior told Boudreau after Tuesday's game that Johnson's performance was his best, from a technical standpoint, since the 31-year-old goalie was claimed off waivers by the Capitals prior to the 2005-06 season.

"He's not old by goaltending standards," Boudreau said. "So I've got to believe that he's going to get better. He's better than he was at 25 and he's better than when he was 29. I don't know if he would have been able to poke check Daniel Alfredsson on a breakaway five years ago."

With his team one game into a grueling stretch of seven games in 12 days, Boudreau called off practice yesterday. But it wasn't an off day for Boudreau. He was back in his Kettler Capitals Iceplex office breaking down video of the loss in Ottawa and constructing new forward lines for tonight's game against Eric Staal (five goals, four assists) and the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes, who are 4-1-1 in their last six.

Boudreau also might be favoring history by turning to Johnson, who has a career .919 save percentage against Carolina and last season posted a 1.56 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in two appearances against the Hurricanes.

As for how much longer Boudreau will go with Johnson, that depends largely on Johnson's performance.

"If Brent goes in and [struggles], obviously we're going to use Theodore against the Rangers on Saturday," Boudreau said. "All I'm looking at is [tonight's] game."


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