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Boudreau Goes To Plan B

Since no one else is doing it, I guess I'll step up and connect the dots.

Less than a month ago, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau "said he has no plans to reduce [Olie] Kolzig's workload."

Three weeks later, Boudreau said "It's important, quite frankly, to get [Brent Johnson] playing more down the stretch. As much as Olie is our No. 1, we'd like to give him a rest every now and again."

And now Boudreau is ready to "increase Brent Johnson's workload in the second half of the season" under the auspices of "an effort to keep Olie Kolzig fresh." But reading between the lines, it's clear that Boudreau is going to Plan B.

What's changed?

Since Boudreau took the helm on November 23, Kolzig has gone 11-6-4 with a 3.17 goals against average and a .879 save percentage. Over that same span, Johnson has gone 3-1-0 (and that one was a tough loss in which Johnny stopped 14 of 15 Philly shots in 34 minutes in relief of Kolzig) with a 2.07 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Frankly, the numbers speak for themselves. Boudreau has shown Olie the deference he deserves by giving him every chance to rebound (pun intended) and sharpen his game, but Kolzig can't quite seem to do so - he has a 3.69 GAA and .867 save percentage in his last seven starts and has given up four or more goals in four of them.

The other day I asked if we were past "If we're going to make the playoffs, it will be with Olie in net" and at "It's time to play the hot hand." And while I don't think we're at the point of a goalie controversy quite yet ("get a grip, man," as Tarik said), I think that his two netminders have left Bruce Boudreau with no choice but to play the hot hand, whether it's Kolzig or Johnson.

It's too late in the season to just sit around and hope that Kolzig regains his form (his goals against average is up over last year's mark and his save percentage is down from .910 last year to .888 this season despite the fact that the Caps are giving up more than 5.5 fewer shots against per game).

It's too late to play a guy for sentimental reasons or because you feel you owe it to him as some sort of lifetime achievement reward.

Boudreau may not "understand" goalies, but he does understand winning. That's why Johnson will start Saturday night's game against Florida - likely the most important game of the season thus far, given the Division and Conference standings. And that's why Boudreau has announced that Johnny could go on Monday night as well.

Make no mistake - Brent Johnson is not the second coming of Ken Dryden. But he has been known to go on hot streaks before and has earned the chance to show whether or not he can do it again. If he can't, Olie Kolzig be back in net for the vast majority of games. If Johnny can get on a roll and carry this team for a little while, however, it will only serve to make an already potent team even better. And at that point, we can loosen the grip and start talking goalie controversy.