Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Changing Goalies In The Playoffs

In general it is a bad thing for plan A to fail and to be forced to change to plan B during a best of seven playoff series.  An example of this is when a team has to change goalies in mid-series in the playoffs.  Despite this, the last three teams to win the Stanley Cup have all done this.  The 2006 Carolina Hurricanes changed from Martin Gerber to Cam Ward, the 2007 Anaheim Ducks changed from Ilya Bryzgalov to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the 2008 Detroit Red Wings from Dominik Hasek to Chris Osgood.  The first team to do this is 2009 is the Washington Capitals who have changed from Jose Theodore to Simeon Varlamov.

Theodore may be a former Hart Trophy winner in 2002, but his career has not gone particularly well since.  In the first game of the series against the New York Rangers, Theodore played badly allowing four goals on only 21 shots.  He was the main reason Washington lost.  In the next two games the Capitals turned to rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov.  Varlamov has only six regular season NHL games played.  He has succeeded so far in the playoffs.  He has stopped 56 of the 57 shots he has faced and sports a playoff leading 0.50 GAA and .982 saves percentage.

While it is a given that Varlamov will not be able to maintain that level of play indefinitely, he seems to be an improvement over Jose Theodore.  Washington is a team with lots of offensive weapons.  They could be dangerous if they have strong goaltending to go with it.

It is unlikely that this goaltending change will make the Capitals a likely Stanley Cup winner.  It is far more likely the cup will be won by a team that is not forced to change goalies in mid-stream (despite the last three years).  It is interesting to see how seamlessly Washington’s goalie switch has gone and to see that the Capitals seem to have found a new NHL capable goalie.

How far will the Washington Capitals advance in the playoffs under Simeon Varlamov?  It seems clear that they have a better chance to advance than under Jose Theodore, but that answer is unclear.  The Capitals are the first team to change goalies in the 2009 playoffs and it has been a good move for them so far.

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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