Heading into tonight's action, Jose Theodore is 34th in the League in save percentage and 26th in goals against average. In a 30-team league, those aren't good numbers, and they're the kind that lead people to write things like "The only serious question mark [for the Caps] is in goal, where back-up Brent Johnson has outplayed No. 1 goaltender Jose Theodore so far."
But a closer look at Theodore's season reveals that, indeed, he hasn't been good - he's been great... for six weeks, at least. Here's a look at all 26 NHL goalies who have appeared in at least ten games since Christmas, ranked by goals against average over that span:
More wins than Tim Thomas or Evgeni Nabokov, a better save percentage than Henrik Lundqvist or Steve Mason, and a better goals against average than, well, everyone. What's more, in those 14 appearances (all starts), Theodore has allowed only a dozen even strength goals.
Soon after the Caps signed Theodore last summer, I wrote a couple of posts (Step Back From The Ledge and In Defense Of Jose, The Defense In Front Of Jose) in which dissimilar to those Cristobal Huet put up in his abbreviated stint between the pipes in D.C. Comparing Huet the (regular season) Cap with Theodore's last six weeks, that point rings true:
|Cristobal Huet (2008)||13||771||11||2||0||21||1.63||329||308||.936||2|
Jose Theodore (Last 6 wks)
To be sure, Theodore's track record is one of inconsistency, but also one of slow starts and strong finishes, and his pre-Christmas (9-6-1/3.32/.881) / post-Christmas (10-3-1/2.06/.925) splits speak to both of those points (as do his career pre- and post-All-Star splits). But six weeks is a decent-sized sample from which to draw some conclusions, and it's possible to chalk up some of his early season woes to familiarizing himself with new on- and off-ice surroundings, as well as the stellar play of his backup.
It's hard, then, to deny that Jose Theodore is one of the best goalies in hockey at the moment... and maybe no one's talking about him because their mouths are filled with crow.