This isn't going to be analysis heavy - there simply isn't enough data to prove who's better. But I'd guess that putting Varly in for every shootout should net us 3-4 points in the standings the rest of the way. The only real downside I see is the risk of injury, since going in cold is the easiest way to pull a groin, and possibly some effect on JT60's confidence. The benefits are, well, more points in the standings, and maybe SV40 confidence. My only question is whether to put Varlamov in at the start of overtime, so as to get him warmer before the shootout, or trust that the 10 minutes before the shooting begins is enough time for him. I think there's even a case to be made that he'd be better than JT60 in overtime (less risk of screens and deflections, greater likelyhood of odd-man rushes) but that's for another time.
Fact: Caps shooters are below average in the shootout. In the last few years it's been a pretty stable group of shooters and what did we get:
Mostly fact: Jose Theodore isn't as good as he used to be, in the shootout or on breakaways.
As of last year he was still above the league average. I think most of us would feel that by the end of last year, in the playoffs, and even into preseason that JT60 was no longer above average on breakaways. On numerous occasions we needed a big stop on a breakaway and didn't get it. Most of us have also been pleasantly surprised by his play this year, and somewhat disappointed by SV40's. Of course by now their GAA and SV% are very similar. I'm not going to read too much into his 0/2 in shootouts this year, I'll just state that he's at league average for a team that needs an above average goalie.
Conjecture: Semyon Varlamov is one of the league's best on breakaways.
Obviously he's described as "very athletic and explosive" in every scouting report, and our own eyes can tell us his movement is incredible and reflexes quite good. He does make mental mistakes and he does give up goals in bunches sometimes. But my eyes also say he's well above average at making the big save on the breakaway, with plenty in last year's playoffs. I only remember him conceding one this year - 10/29/09 Todd White ATL - but I could be off and the definition may be subjective. It's too early to use his 13/14 performance in this year's shootout as proof, but it seems to fit the narrative. As a young athletic goalie if you only give him this one thing to concentrate on, with no other distractions, he's one of the best. The risk of goals in bunches or deteriorating confidence means nothing here because if he's given up two we've probably already lost the shootout. The risk of continued failure is irrelevant.
Fact: The Capitals need to pick up points in shootouts. The Caps are right with the best in the league and getting Game 7s at home is important.
But we've consistently left points on the table. Last year it was with a 4-5 record in shootouts, '07-'08 was 4-6. We're 2-1 so far, we haven't lost by more than a goal all year, and it looks like we're a good bet to keep going into overtime at a good rate. Assume we're in nine more shootouts this year. With JT60 I think we're 3-6, with SV40 I think we're 7-2. That's four massive points in the standings - could be less, could be more.
Let's look at our competition. MAF and Johnny have staked PIT to a 4-0 record behind 13/14 saves. Their shooting is a nice 6 for 13 too. NJD and MTL are 3-0 thanks to 8/9 and 7/7 respectively, and great shooting. These teams are getting it done. PIT and NJD are our main competition at the top of the east right now, unsurprisingly.
Advice: Get Varlamov into every shootout. Somehow. Just do it.
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