Tactical Technical Strike

Musings, Thoughts, Notes, & a brain dump of what I come across

A missed thought in deconstructing the Caps failures

Posted on | April 29, 2010 | No Comments

No one really has had a problem with Varly’s play in this series loss to Montreal, but should they? Did he under-perform just as much as Semin?

The Caps went through the season winning a team record and league leading 54 games. They did that by rotating goalies, treating them as interchangeable parts that needed rest and practice just as much as they needed them to get hot. For a team that throughout the year used two goalies even during their team record 14 game win streak, after the 68 playoff minutes, they became a one goalie show. Jose Theodore won more than half of the team’s games this year (30 wins). He started more than half of the regular season games. He finished the season on a 20-0-3 burner. But after 68 minutes and a bad 3 minute stretch, he was banished.

Varly is a fine goalie on his own account, don’t get me wrong. But I think his reputation is far inflated by his performance in the New York Rangers series in last year’s playoffs. He was avreage in the Penguins series, eventually being replaced after giving up 4 Game 7 goals. He started the season strong this year, but was very ordinary in the 2 months after returning from injury (A record of only 3-3-4 after coming back). Change up the momentum during Game 2, that’s fine. Play him through Game 3 and ride him hot. But once he cooled down in Game 4, Game 5, and especially Game 6, you have to think that maybe you have leaned on that pole just a little too hard.

If the Caps think they can win “their way,” ignoring defense and playing guns blazing offense, why did they change “their way” as soon as they got to the playoffs? Yep, many teams in the past have won the Cup by riding a hot goaltender, but that’s not what’s going to get the currently constructed Caps there. They are going to score 4 or 5 goals in many games, regardless of the opponent being shut out or scoring 3. But to change the strategy in the HOPES of getting Varly hot was just bad.

Varly played GREAT in Game 3 in Montreal. He had a 96% save percentage that game, and when the Caps needed momentum and a win in the early half of the series, he came through and set the Caps up to cruise in the series. But other than that? Commonplace at best. When a win was really needed to finish the series, when the pressure was on in Games 5, 6, or 7, his save percentage was a commonplace 87.2%.

Semyon Varlamov Statistics
Game Save Percentage
Game 7 87.5%
Game 6 85.7%
Game 5 92.9%
Game 4 92.3%
Game 3 96.3%
Game 2 86.4%
Total 90.8%
Jose Theodore Statistics
Game Save Percentage
Game 2 0%
Game 1 92.1%
Total 91.1%
For fun: Jaroslav Halak Statistics
Game Save Percentage
Game 7 97.6%
Game 6 98.1%
Game 5 97.4%
Game 3 76.9%
Game 2 83.8%
Game 1 95.7%
Total 93.4%

Varly didn’t give up the farm, he kept most games within striking distance (Something Theo wasn’t doing in Game 2), but did he really do anything great? And when you start to say yes, did he do anything as good as Halak did?

In Game 7, while it was a good shot and a defensive breakdown, Varly had a great view of that last, series clinching goal in Game 7. The Habs went stick-side, and Varly couldn’t get their in time. Just minutes before the Habs tried to beat him wide gloveside, and just hit the post. But you know what? That side of the goal WAS OPEN. With the boys desperately trying to get back in the game on offense, I think most Caps fans had to think they’d at least have a pretty good shot to get an equalizer. Allowing that 2nd goal was a killer.

The same could be said in Game 6. The Caps had struggled all game, but you know that they are going to really pressure this 3rd period. So when Varly lets in a goal 4 minutes in, counter-productive can’t begin to describe it. Later, when the Caps have finally broken through Halak with some 3 or 4 minutes to go, and you know that Ovie and the team was going to turn up the pressure, but they are down 2 instead of 1, and it’s an uphill/up-mountain battle. They might not have gotten the tie, but they were going to go into Game 7 hopefully on stronger footing than where they started the 3rd period, but instead it was a meaningless goal in a 3 goal loss.

I don’t know a ton about hockey, but I’ve watched and read enough to not give Varly as much of a pass as many in the media are doing (nor give Boudreau a pass in sticking with him). If this series did anything, it ended the Jose Theodore era for good, and now we can rise (and Fall) firmly on the back of Varly, finally not being able to rest on someone else’s laurels.

References:
[1] Varly stats
[2] Theodore stats
[3] Halak stats

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