Journeyman goaltender and former NHL MVP Jose Theodore has finally emerged as the playoff answer for the Caps in goal.
After two years in Colorado, Theodore was traded to the Washington Capitals. Last season, 2008-09, Theodore was the primary starter. However, in the playoffs last year, Theodore was pulled after a poor performance in Game One against the Rangers in favor of then-rookie Semyon Varlamov.
This year, Theodore and Varlamov have battled it out to see who will be the primary starter as the playoffs get closer. With Theodore's great performance in key games and Varlamov's recent struggles, Theodore has pulled away in the competition.
This was furthered by his brilliant performance against Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Theodore had 33 saves and a .971 save percentage and only let in one goal.
Theodore has performed exceptionally in big games as well, showing he can play under the pressure that cracked him last year. He had a season-high 46 saves in a 3-2 win over Detroit. He made 38 saves in a 6-3 win over archrival Pittsburgh on Jan. 20 and 35 in a win over the Pens on Feb. 7.
Theodore shut out the New York Rangers 2-0 on March 6, and he also came off the bench in a 5-4 OT win against Florida. After Varlamov let in four goals, Theodore came in and didn't allow any more goals as the Greatest Show on Ice came back and won the game.
Theodore had a brilliant performance against Sidney Crosby and the Pens for the third time. He made 39 saves in the 4-3 shootout win against the Penguins and swept the season series.
Even more brilliant was his clutch shootout performance. After allowing two goals to fall down 2-0 in the shootout, Theodore met the task and didn't allow a goal after Crosby's. Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Mike Knuble scored three straight to win it in round four.
Theodore also has far more experience and mental toughness than Varlamov. While Varlamov is a good goalie, he is young and is easily rattled. Even when having a solid performance for most of a game, one mistake can rattle his case and make him choke.
This was evident in a 4-3 shootout loss against Dallas. After playing a solid two periods, he collapsed in the third period and the shootout. After letting in one goal, Varlamov clearly got frustrated and allowed two more goals to tie the game.
Theodore has clearly pulled away in the race to the playoffs. He has shown all the necessary skills to be a shutdown keeper.