So over on Twitter today there's been raging debate on who folks think Bruce Boudreau should go with in goal for the Washington Capitals for Game One in the playoffs. Essentially, who is this team's playoff goalie?
Japers' Rink asked the question today too, and provided the stats for an analytical approach to evaluating the decision.
Does Boudreau go with Michal Neuvirth, who the Caps have ridden to 27 of their 48 wins this season and won two Calder Cups? Or should he go with the goalie with better statistics this season (in many fewer games) and that he's trusted more in the playoffs the last two seasons, Semyon Varlamov?
It's an interesting debate, because both goalies are immensely talented. And as 50 Mission Caps points out, because of the motivational factor and psyche of the team, you can really only switch goalies once in a series, because as they put it:
"...the whole point of changing your starter in the playoffs is that it gives your team an excuse for games they've already lost. It's not actually about goaltending, it's about giving your team amnesia, or some sort of get-out-of-adverse-momentum free card. Under no circumstances is this to become a rotation by whimsy, or gut feel, or coin flip. Give your 'tender and your team a fighting chance. The minute you start to flip-flop back and forth, it stops being about a fresh start and starts being about your lousy goaltending. And no one wins in the playoffs with lousy goaltending."
Should this decision be made on statistics? Should it be made on tenure? Should it be made on gut instinct?
Or is it a matter of style preference?
Neuvirth is a technical goaltender, cut from the cloth of classic goalies like Ken Dryden, Bernie Parent and Olaf Kolzig. Varlamov is an extremely gifted athletic goalie a la Dominic Hasek. Heck, the Caps even have their crazy psycho goalie in Braden Holtby along the lines of Billy Smith and Ron Hextall ::shudder::.
Personally, I prefer the technical goalie. I think they are more dependable and night after night give a more balanced performance. Athletic goalies are spectacular to watch when they are on, but hold on to your hats if they aren't "feeling right" that night. Again, it's a matter of preference.
All three goalies are ridiculously talented at such a young age and gives the Caps a stable of goalies that every team in the league should be envious of. But we're not debating the long-term solution of Caps goalie for the next ten years. We're talking about the next ten weeks or so.
So, who you got?