Capitals should go back to Theodore for Game 3

The Washington Post's Mike Wise and Cindy Boren preview game 3 between the Canadiens and the Capitals on Monday night in Montreal.
By Mike Wise
Monday, April 19, 2010

Bruce Boudreau has several good reasons to start Semyon Varlamov in goal for Game 3 Monday night in Montreal.

For one, yanking José Theodore for the kid worked a year ago in Game 2 of the first round against the Rangers, who could hardly solve the Russian wunderkind and eventually lost the series in seven games.

Since Montreal's own Theodore will understandably be emotionally charged to go up against his former Canadiens in Game 3, why even take the chance of letting a Bell Centre crowd rattle him any further? He's probably already shaken up from being pulled in the first period of Game 2 after letting in the only two shots he faced.

And why not give Varly -- who, before battling injury and inconsistency this season, excelled in net last postseason -- the confidence needed to battle deep into May and June?

Every reason the Capitals' coach has for keeping Theodore on the bench has well-founded logic behind it.

But this isn't about logic. It's about gut and feel, two intuitive qualities that have served Boudreau well throughout his coaching career. It's also about fairness.

It's about giving José Theodore the second chance in the postseason he never got a year ago, the chance Boudreau now realizes he should have gotten in Game 7 of the second round against Pittsburgh after the Penguins unleashed a four-goal onslaught on a clearly stunned Varlamov -- and there went the series.

It would be one thing if Theodore had struggled mightily prior to the postseason like a year ago. But he has often been impenetrable in goal since January. His strong playoff debut last Thursday night in Game 1 -- Theodore repelled at least 20 point-blank shots -- was only overshadowed by Jaroslav Halak stopping 45 of 47 shots in Montreal's upset.

He's also well known for his mental toughness, being able to rebound from adversity.

"It's something I always take a lot of pride in -- bouncing back," Theodore said Sunday after the team practiced. "The good thing about the playoffs is you play pretty much every other day, so it's easy to forget about it and bounce back."

No awful night on the ice will ever equate to losing his infant son, Chace, last August from respiratory complications related to a premature birth -- a tragedy that led Theodore to create the Saves for Kids program, in which he donates $2 for each save, $100 for every win and $500 for each shutout to the benefit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children's National Medical Center.

But even in the aftermath of a traumatic instance no parent should ever have to deal with, Theodore's professional resilience was on display. After he was given time off during the grieving process in November when he struggled for a while, he came back determined and ready after missing five games.

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