The question has lingered over the Washington Capitals for weeks, and with two games remaining before the playoffs, Coach Bruce Boudreau still hasnt named which goaltender will start Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
“I havent discussed anything with anybody,” Boudreau said.
“Im still evaluating.
Nothing has been etched in stone.”
The prevailing sentiment around the league is that Boudreau hasnt committed to either JosÃ© Theodore or Semyon Varlamov because he believes that its possible, if not likely, the Capitals could need both in their quest for the franchises first Stanley Cup.
While thats not the conventional approach, its not unprecedented in recent NHL history, either.
Three of the past four champions, in fact, started the playoffs with one goaltender and switched to another en route to the Cup.
Goaltending-by-committee is also consistent with Boudreaus longstanding philosophy of riding the hot netminder and the pattern he has established over the past two months.
Neither Theodore nor Varlamov have received more than two consecutive starts since Varlamov returned from groin muscle and knee injuries in mid-February.
“I took out Roberto Luongo in [the American Hockey League playoffs] when he wasnt getting the job done,” said Boudreau, who coached Luongo in the New York Islanders organization.
“This is right after he just won a series single-handedly.”
While statistics suggest the job should belong to Theodore, who is 19-0-3 in his last 22 decisions compared with Varlamovs 3-3-3 record since coming off injured reserve, the fact that Boudreau hasnt come out and named him the starter has raised eyebrows, particularly because the coach replaced Theodore one game into last years playoff run with an untested Varlamov.
“The last couple of months Ive been pretty consistent,” Theodore said.
“So theres not much more I can do.”
Kevin Weekes, a former NHL goalie who now works as an analyst for NHL Network, said that even if Boudreau has made up his mind, by not announcing it publicly, hes creating an “unnecessary controversy.”
“I like Bruce Boudreau, hes done a great job turning that franchise around,” Weekes said.
“But its creating an unnecessary controversy that doesnt need to be there — because, whichever way they go, they are operating from a position of strength.”
That could be interesting. Can anyone remember the last time a team rotated goaltenders through the playoffs? It seems pretty unconventional.