Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Capitals face another tough call at goalie

Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau:
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau: "Actually, right now we can't rest anybody because everybody's hurt." (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
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By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 3, 2010

Controversy might be a little strong. Let's call it a situation. The Capitals have a goaltending situation. It's a situation some other teams might envy, but for the Caps, the key is keeping it from blossoming into a controversy.

The Capitals have two very good goaltenders. José Theodore is 27-7-7 with a 2.87 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. Semyon Varlamov is 14-4-5 with a 2.52 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. (Math was never my strong suit, but there seems to be very little difference between .908 and .909.)

Of course, there are bigger differences between the two as well. Theodore is 33 years old, 5 feet 11, 185 pounds, and has far more starts this season than Varlamov, who missed more than two months with nagging injuries. Varlamov is 6-2, 209, and he'll turn 22 during the playoffs, if things go the Caps' way.

And that's another difference: the playoffs. Theodore has far more playoff experience than Varlamov -- but not with the Caps. Theodore started just one game last year during the Caps' run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals before Coach Bruce Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov. With the playoffs again in sight, all of this came bubbling up during the Caps' recent three-game losing streak. Although two of those losses were Varlamov's, Theodore seemed to take the larger share of the blame for the skid, in part because he gave up three goals on Calgary's first 10 shots in an ugly March 28 loss.

So Boudreau put Varlamov in goal Thursday night against Atlanta, and the losing streak ended with a 2-1 victory. And talk of a goaltending "controversy" began percolating among Caps followers.

"It doesn't really matter what they're saying," Boudreau said. "We know what we're doing and we'll make the right decision when the time comes."

The right decision for Saturday night in Columbus apparently is Theodore. After that, who knows? It's not a problem Boudreau spends a lot of time worrying about, or so he says.

"I don't see how it would be a bad thing," he said of the goalie situation. "I think some of the other teams wish they had it. We've got guys who can play and it makes for tough decisions but I don't think it's a controversy."

Neither does Theodore. After 14 seasons in the NHL, he knows such talk is par for the course.

"The goalie is always a hot topic on every team," he said. "I was reading articles about the L.A. Kings talking about they have two goalies who could play, same thing with Montreal, Philly, you look around the league and it's pretty much like that.

"I think when the team is first overall, the goalies have played well. Me and Semyon are a really good team. When the team is first overall I don't think there is any controversy. Whatever the system is, the system's working."

According to Boudreau, there is no system.

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