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A Look At the Capitals – Canadiens 1st Round NHL Playoff Netminders

April 13, 2010

4/13/10

The Caps and the Habs will face-off Thursday night for game 1 of the 1st round of the playoffs in D.C. at the extremely loud and extremely red Verizon Center. Washington Capitals coach, Bruce Boudreau, has named Jose Theodore as the starting goaltender. This is a decision I wholeheartedly agree with and who in their right mind wouldn’t? Now, that’s not to say there isn’t room for young Semyon Varlamov. If Theodore needs a break for whatever reason, I’m not going to be the one who sells Varly short when he gets the nod from Gabby (Remember – he spent about 759 minutes on ice in the post-season as compared to Theodore who spent about 96 minutes on ice during the post-season last year). Varly’s got the chops – just not the experience to match-up to Jose. Montreal has a goalie who showed that sometimes all you need is the chance to show-up at a playoff game to shine. Carey Price sure showed-up and stood-up to the challenge in the 2007 – 2008 season for Montreal; the team that sent Huet to Washington that year as well. Price was ranked 7th in overall SV% for that year – higher than Martin Brodeur who ranked 8th overall.

The Canadiens also have Jaroslav Halak who may be young, but he has some very impressive numbers this season. Halak ranks 4th in SV%, 7th in GAA and 9th in SO. That is staggering if put up against Washington Capitals main man Theodore’s numbers. Jose ranks 22nd in SV%, 32nd in GAA and 33rd in SO. It’s a good thing we can take those numbers and throw them right out the window. They are regular season stats and Theodore appears to have an advantage over Halak in several different ways when it comes to the playoffs.

First, Theodore was a Canadien for quite a while and there is always incentive to play just that tiny bit harder when you face a team on which you once played (let’s not deny this – we all know it’s true don’t we?). Plus, Theodore has seen much more playoff time on ice than both Price and Halak combined, giving him the experience “edge” over either of Montreal’s keepers of the net. Theodore also has some idea of what he is facing, because he’s a former Canadien who was probably paying attention. Yes, both Halak and Price are very recent Molson Cup winners, but that only means that they have a lot of catching up to do, because my boy J.T. won four years straight from 2000 – 2004.

Both Jose Theodore and Jaroslav Halak are Masterson Memorial Trophy nominees. That may not matter when it comes to game play, but it is unique to see two Masterson nominated goalies head-to-head in a playoff series. It is not clear which of the two young goaltenders Jacques Martin will put as the defender between the pipes, but Price has more playoff experience and better playoff numbers than Halak. Although Halak may just be looking for the opportunity to show everyone what he’s made of and prove his mettle. I think the Montreal fans are hoping to make the decision for the coach right now. So far, there’s no official word as to who gets the nod from coach Martin.

The one thing I know for sure, both Habs netminders will need to be at the very tip-top of their game. They are playing a Capitals team that will test them and test them hard. It won’t be just Ovechkin they will need to consider when they are trying to stop the puck. Washington has a frontloader filled with shooters. My assessment is that the Capitals are heading into round one with a more prepared and practiced goalie who has shown more and more promise as this season has progressed. Theodore has incentive to stay in front of the net and knows exactly what it takes to mind his net. Good luck to you Montreal.

Co Caps! – Go GOALIES Go (especially you Theodore, you goaltending master you) – peace – mia

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