Just how much will Semyon Varlamov’s return help the Caps? They’re doing well enough without him, given that they’re one of five teams in the NHL with 60 or more points. However, there’s little doubt that getting him back healthy will provide a massive boost.
With Varlamov out, the Caps have had to rely on Jose Theodore and Michal Neuvirth. In 35 games played between the two of them, Neuvirth/Theodore (Thoevirth?) have combined to post a lackluster .896 save percentage. Compare that to the other goaltenders that get the most starts for teams with 60 or more points.
Ryan Miller (Buf) GP: 37 Sv %: .935
Martin Brodeur (NJD) GP: 42 Sv %: .925
Evgeni Nabokov (SJS) GP : 41 Sv%: .924
Cristobal Huet (CHI) GP: 33 Sv%: .908
On the other hand, Theovirth’s save percentage is tied with Brian Boucher of the Flyers for fifth worst in the NHL among qualified goalies. Below them are Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire of the Senators, who just fired their goaltending coach, followed by Steve Mason and Vesa Toskala. Not good.
What’s that you say? The other teams with 60 or more points have better defense than the Capitals? That seems like a valid argument, since the Devils, Blackhawks and Sabres are first, second and third respectively in goals against average. The Sharks aren’t far behind at seventh. Meanwhile, the Caps are down at 17th on that list.
The only flaw in that argument is that Varlamov posted a .924 save percentage in his 16 games played before getting hurt. The Capitals’ supposedly-suspect defense somehow held opponents to a 2.21 GAA in his starts (Buffalo’s is 2.22).
In the end, only so many excuses can be made for goaltenders, and the goalie play in Washington has ranged from inconsistent to highly suspect of late. Thankfully, Varlamov is set to return from injury soon. Once he does, a lot of the issues that have plagued the team, like the brutal penalty killing and the inconsistent defensive play, will seem far less glaring.