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Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals End of Season Evaluations – Goaltenders

Washington CapitalsSince there’s no more playoff hockey to talk about concerning the Capitals, I thought I’d assess the performances of the players in the regular season, starting with the goalies:

Semyon Varlamov – 26 games played in, 23 starts, 15-4-6, 2 shutouts, 2.55 GAA, .909 SV%

After his success in the 09 playoffs, many fans were excited about the prospect of Varly as the starting goalie for seasons to come. And at the start of the year, he quickly got the starter’s job. He was 12-1-2 with GAA 2.12 and SV% .924 before he picked up a groin injury in mid-december. Although it seemed a minor injury, it kept the young Russian out until just before the Olympic break. After he returned, he didn’t really look the same; he was rusty and seemed pretty awkward in net to begin with. He began to regain his form later in the season, but was firmly behind Jose Theodore in the race for the number one spot at the end of the regular season. Overall, a good season that was somewhat spoilt by a niggling injury. Grade: A minus

Jose Theodore – 47 games played in, 43 starts, 30-7-7, 1 shutout, 2.81 GAA, .911 SV%

A nomination for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy really shows the kind of year Jose Theodore has had. On August 20 2009, it was reported that Theodore’s son Chace had died due to complications stemming from a premature birth. But Theodore still somehow managed to focus himself on his game at the start of the season, in spite of such a devastating loss. However, he still quickly became cemented backup to Semyon Varlamov. His performances on the ice just weren’t quite good enough. And then Varlamov injured his groin. With Varlamov out for a few months, Theodore had a chance to regain the starter’s job. But it was Michal Neuvirth, called up from the Hershey Bears, who was playing the better hockey. That was until back-to-back midweek games in Florida against both the Lightning and the Panthers in early January. Neuvirth was pulled after conceding four goals in the first period, as the Caps lost 7-4 to the Lightning. But Neuvirth still got the start a day later against the Panthers, and was once again replaced by Theodore after conceding four goals in two periods. This was the point which turned the Caps’ season from good to great. The Capitals rallied to beat the Panthers 5-4 in a shootout and, with some of the best goaltending this team has seen in several years from Theodore, a 14-game winning streak followed. Even after the streak ended, and Varlamov returned, Theodore continued to produce at times stunning goaltending to firmly take his place as the Capitals’ number one. After a tragic loss, Theodore had his best season since 01/02, fully earning his Masterton nomination. Grade: A

Michal Neuvirth – 17 games played in, 16 starts, 9-4-0, 0 shutouts, 2.75 GAA, .914 SV%

Only coming into the team as a backup when Varlamov was injured, nobody expected too much from Neuvirth. But he soon started to surprise fans, playing consistently and confidently, and even after being pulled twice in two days, he managed to come back in his next start ten days later to produce a solid performance to maintain the team’s winning streak. Neuvy played a reasonably small role in the team’s season, but showed some class and a lot of potential. Certainly a young talent with a great future, who will have benefited from a good spell in the NHL. Grade: B+

The organisation has some interesting decisions to make about goaltending. Theodore’s rather expensive contract expires this year, but Varlamov’s injury problems will remain worrying. However, Neuvirth has proved he is ready to step into the NHL if needed. I hope the Caps sign a veteran goalie, like Marty Turco for one year, to share the load, and bring a bit of experience amongst the youth.

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