Pick 'Em: Game 3 Starter

WASHINGTON - APRIL 17: Semyon Varlamov #40 (R) of the Washington Capitals takes over goaltender duties from Jose Theodore #60 (L) in the first period of their game against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 17, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

"There is no short leash. [Jose Theodore is] the guy we’re going to go with and see how it goes." - Bruce Boudreau, prior to Game 1

"I haven’t really thought about who’s playing Monday yet." - Boudreau, immediately after last night's game

After stopping 35 of the first 37 shots he saw in this year's playoffs, Jose Theodore has surrendered goals on the last three Montreal shots he has faced in just under eight minutes of playing time. Still, he has yet to lose a start in regulation in calendar year 2010 (though that stat comes with a giant asterisk for a few big-time bailouts), and has a 2.52 goals against average and .920 save percentage in April. As much as Theo gave the Caps a chance to win Game 1, had he not gotten pulled 7:58 into Game 2, he might have deprived them of a similar chance. And, as if you needed it, here's another sobering stat: Theodore has failed to finish four of his last seven playoff starts.

Semyon Varlamov relieved Theodore on Saturday and stopped 19 of the 22 shots he faced en route to the thrilling overtime victory. His recovery from a lengthy absence due to injury seems largely complete, as he was better in March than in his one February start and better in April than March, posting a 2.52 goals against average and .908 save percentage this month.

So who will start Game 3 in Montreal?

Taken on its face, if Boudreau is to be believed about the length of Theo's leash, the veteran netminder deserves another shot at his former team. But there's much more at play here, of course, given the specific circumstances surrounding this pivotal game. As Mike Vogel noted before the series was even a series, Boudreau's two backstops have had very different experiences playing in La Belle Province:

A former Canadien, Theodore is 2-1-1 with a shutout, a 4.05 GAA and an .877 save pct. in four appearances (three starts) against the Habs. Theodore has only started one game against the Canadiens in Montreal since leaving the Habs’ employ in March, 2006. In that game, Theodore was dented for eight goals on 36 shots in an 8-5 loss to Montreal. He gave up five goals in the third period of that contest.

Earlier this season, Theodore came on in relief of Michal Neuvirth at Bell Centre. In 37 minutes of work, he surrendered four goals on 25 shots and was saddled with an overtime loss.

...

During his career against the Canadiens, Varlamov is 2-0 with a 1.94 GAA and a .930 save pct. Varlamov won his NHL debut in Montreal, making 32 saves in front of a Saturday night packed house and Hockey Night in Canada television audience on Dec. 13, 2008.

And then there's what each of the two goalies have done in the playoffs under Boudreau:


GP GS MIN W L GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
Jose Theodore 4 3 178 0
2 11
3.71 73
62
.849 0


GP GS MIN W L GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
Semyon Varlamov 14 13 811 8
6 35 2.59 411 376
.915 2

The numbers that jump off the screen are the zero wins in three starts for Theo, and the two series-worth of wins in 14 games for Varly. Taken together with the respective histories of the two goalies when playing in Montreal, we can make a pretty good guess as to whom Boudreau will give the nod to start Game 3. But who would you start - the veteran who has carried the team through the second half of the season or the rookie who dug the team out of a huge hole in last year's first round... and helped to do the same last night?

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