Things are not going very well for José Théodore in Washington, and that has benefited nobody more than a particular young goalie. No, not Simeon Varlamov, but someone a month older, Michal Neuvirth. At one time (and this may still be the case), Neuvirth was thought to be the Caps’ third option at goalie, but circumstances have led him into competition for the starting job.
Neuvirth has started in seven of the twelve games that Washington has played since Varlamov hit the IR on December 9, winning four to go with a tough loss in LA, an understandable rout at San Jose where Washington hasn’t won in ages, and another understandable spanking at Toronto in what was only his second start of the season (and fifth of his career) at the time, that being the first game after Varly went out.
In the meantime, Varlamov has unfortunately only slowly recovered from his injury. He played very well in his first rehab game with Hershey, only to injure himself again elsewhere (reports are vague as to what’s hurt). Is Varlamov a fragile goalie? Only time will tell, but what’s important is that he’s nowhere near the Caps’ bench right now, leaving one of the better starting situations in the league wide open.
Neuvirth’s stats are nothing like Varlamov’s, but when you’re playing for one of the winningest teams in the conference, that’s not so important. What seems to be important to Caps’ coach Bruce Boudreau is that Michal’s last name is not “Theodore.” That other goalie has reportedly had ongoing confidence issues, an absurd notion for a goaltender who’s been in the league for over thirteen seasons. Boudreau seems to be fed up, going with Neuvirth consistently lately.
It’s not too late for Theo, who’s played well in a few games since Varlamov’s injury. Particularly against Colorado whom he held to one goal. But the bad moments have been awful, including an embarrassing outing at home against lowly Carolina in which he surrendered five goals, including a hat trick to Eric Staal. Neuvirth has started all three games since. All is not lost for Theo; he is expected to get the start tonight against Ottawa, who crushed Philly 7-4 over the weekend…this may be Theodore’s last chance to put together a solid effort, and I don’t think there will be much looking back if he plays poorly. If he plays well, the 50/50 timeshare should continue with Neuvirth.
It appears that the Caps are in a tough situation: It’s unlikely that anybody will trade for Theodore, but when Varlamov is back, they may have to roster three goalies. I think that when that day comes, Theodore will be sent to the minors if Neuvirth can continue his solid, consistent play. But that is all in the future, and at the moment it seems that this no-name goalie is the starter in DC, a role that has made even the likes of Theodore valuable in the past.
Owners already invested in the Capitals’ goalie situation via Varly or Theo absolutely must roster Neuvirth, and anybody needing help in the wins column should consider him for spot starts.
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