Do The Caps Have The Goaltending To Win The Cup?

Is Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov enough to win a cup?

The Washington Capitals added depth on NHL Deadline Day, acquiring forwards Scott Walker and Eric Belanger, and blueliners Joe Corvo and Milan Jurcina, who returns to Washington after being traded, along with then team captain Chris Clark, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Despite these moves paying off immediate dividends, questions remain about the Caps goaltending: specifically, is it enough to keep pucks out of the net in the playoffs?

“No matter how fearsome their attack, they’re just OK at keeping pucks out of their net. They’ll enter the playoffs, likely as the top seed in the East, entrusting the most critical position on the ice to the likes of Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov and/or Michal Neuvirth.” – NBCSports.com

So what type of goaltending does it take to win the Cup, and do the Caps have it?

If we look at the Stanley Cup winners over the last decade, some patterns emerge:

  1. As of 3/5/10, The Caps have a Goals Against per game (GA/Gm) of 2.84, which would be only the third worst of Cup Winning teams since 2000. 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins were at 2.91 and the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes were at 3.17.
  2. The 2010 Washington Capitals are scoring machines. Their 4.0 Goals For per game (GF/Gm) would lead all Cup winners since 2000. So while it is true they let goals in the net, they make up for it by burying the biscuit themselves.
  3. The expected winning percentage of the 2010 Caps would also be the second best of the Cup teams since 2000. Based on the Pythagorean winning percentage, The Caps are expected to have a win % .652 – despite giving up 2.84 goals per game. Only the 2008 Detroit Red Wings (.651) and the 2001 Colorado Avalanche (.653) come close.

RMNB believes it's found the secret to Jose Theodore's recent success...

RMNB believes it's found the secret to Jose Theodore's recent success...

From a team perspective, the Caps are well within the statistical confines of a Cup Winner and they score enough goals to compensate for any lapse of goaltending prowess.

Jose Theodore, who I believe has found a real life Hot Tub Time Machine, has shown he is capable of being close to the Jose of 2001-2 when he won the Hart & Vezina Trophies. Exhibit A is his goaltending during the Caps 14 game win streak.

Varlamov is coming back from injury, and his playoff experience from last year will only bolster his confidence going forward.

Caps’ fans should have a deeper concern: the PK:

Since 2000, no Cup winner has had a PK% less than 81.8% (2006 Carolina Hurricanes). 2010 Capitals are currently 78.91%.

But that’s an article for another day.

  • Бойтесь 8!

    No brainer “Yes!” for me. They have the overall best goaltending in the league, as is evidenced by having the best record in the league. Miller’s probably the best goalie in the world right now, but the Caps put 4 by him the other night. Gabby’s comment about Varly the other night is true of Jose and Neuvy too–they make the saves that give the team a chance to win, which is what a goalie is supposed to do. Sure, all three have had an off night here and there, but the goals against is more the result of defensive breakdowns and, as you mentioned, inconsistent pk performance. McPhee has made trades to remediate both those ills (with the bonus that Scott Walker, scoring machine, has apparently been hiding his light under a barrel all these years), so I think our goalies are going to start looking a lot better than they are already. Reference Jose’s performance the other night, even before the trades, where the skaters paid attention to D first.

  • Ron

    They only put 2 by Miller the other night. The 3rd was an empty netter. Theodore and Varlamov will need to pick it up one more notch. The home crowd will be a huge factor in the chase for the Cup.

  • http://www.capscrazy.wordpress.com Mikkel

    The Caps goaltending only has to be good, not great. All three of the Caps goalies have had periods of greatness this year and with the run and gun offense Bruce has the team playing there will always be odd man rushes and scoring chances for the other team. To me, the Caps defense is more suspect than their goaltending and everyone seems to forget that Theo is a former MVP and has proven he can carry a team. With last years playoff letdown, he’ll be out to prove himself this year and the fact he’s in a contract year will be more than enough incentive. The Caps will be fine.

    I wrote a blog post about the goaltending and deadline deals for the Caps over at http://www.capscrazy.wordpress.com. Another thing working for the Caps is they will have home ice advantage due to them winning the Southeast and they have been almost unbeatable at home this year.

  • yuk

    I think ‘yes’ when Varly will become his usual. Before injuries, it was amazing to see in close live action how incredibly fast he is in falling on knees or spreading legs across the crease and standing back as a result making goal very small for attackers That quickness may be partially contributed to his injuries. Having now choices may be BB planning to play him in all Verizon playoff games while Jose away.

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  • bucknelldad

    I have the benefit of post-game analysis, but I think the Theo has answered your question with a resounding yes. He was simply on top of his game. Goaltending hasn’t really been the Caps problem — D has, and S. Morrisson again demonstrated with his “brain fart” (his words, not mine) last night, Maybe he secretly wishes to play for John Tortorella, who knows, but 1) Bruce’s system, which creates defensive end vulnerabilities, 2) dumb D and 3) O men who are still trying to learn how to spell “backcheck” are what creates the Caps GAA problems. Those are fixable, but time’s awaistin’. Theo and Varly are more than up to the job (Varly still needs to find his mojo, but he’s well on his way).

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