Jose Theodore came into this season poised and ready to defend his #1 spot against pressing youngsters Semyon Varlamov and Hershey hot-hand Michal Neuvirth. His numbers through those first few weeks were sparkling, often the reason the Caps won or were even in games while some of his teammates phoned it in.
Halfway through November, however, the tables have turned - and Jose's numbers, once white hot, have cooled considerably. In his last six games, he's stopped 120 of 141 shots for a painful .851 save percentage, and his overall numbers have taken a hit:
|2009 - Jose Theodore||14||722||5||3||4||0||39||3.24||364||325||.893||0|
As Theodore stumbles, it's Varlamov who is now making a statement. With just one regulation loss - in his entire NHL career so far - to his credit, Varlamov has steadily improved his numbers and regained a little of the form that saw him challenge for the top spot in the first place.
|2009 - Semyon Varlamov||9||495||7||1||0||0||22||2.67||250||228||.912||0|
Still, it's not necessarily a done deal that Varlamov is taking over as the #1 guy. It's not guaranteed that Theodore has lost his starting spot.
...not yet at least.
Instead what we're starting to see in net for the Capitals is the development of a true goaltending tandem. When one guy falters, the other is there to pick up the slack - and when that happens, it pushes whomever is struggling to double his efforts to improve. It gives him motivation to get back in the saddle and reclaim his spot.
As of right now we've seen Theodore rebound from a disappointing end to last season with a hot start, only to falter slightly in recent weeks. On the flip side, Varlamov’s first postseason came to a somewhat shaky end and the season started the same way, but he’s slowly rebounded. The ups and downs are baked right in with these two.
Still, it's not a guarantee that either one reverts back to his early-season form - this discussion may become moot in April should Varlamov truly take the reins away from Theodore. And the discussion changes entirely if Michal Neuvirth throws his hat into the ring at some point, as well:
|2009 - Michal Neuvirth (AHL)||9||539||6||3||0||2||21||2.34||247||226||.915||0|
But young goaltenders are streaky. Theodore is notoriously inconsistent. Odds are that this is not the last time we visit the issue of who is the #1 goalie - and really, that's kind of the way it should be.