Gotta go with the kid.
Bruce Boudreau might disagree, and he gets to make the choice. But after watching Jose Theodore be awfully hard to hit Wednesday night in Washington's series opening loss to the New York Rangers, you've got to believe the man they call Gabby is at the very least considering giving rookie Simeon Varlamov the start for Game 2 on Saturday.
Now, Boudreau has two days off to fully digest Wednesday night's 4-3 defeat, and he's going to see some things other than Theodore's iffy goalkeeping he won't like. Like Jeff Schultz getting undressed on the winning goal by Brandon Dubinsky. He was already justifiably upset over the non-interference call on Sean Avery that set up Scott Gomez's second period goal.
But here's the tricky part of the goaltending decision, and it goes beyond the fact Varlamov, aged 20, has never played an NHL playoff game and only dressed as Theodore's backup because regular No. 2 man Brent Johnson is out recovering slowly from hip surgery.
Let's say Boudreau sticks with Theodore, who now has four wins in his last 15 playoff starts, for Game 2, and the veteran netminder plays poorly and the Caps lose.
Then, you have to stick with Theodore probably because it would be difficult to put Varlamov in for a do-or-die Game 3 in Madison Square Garden.
But if you go with Varlamov for Game 2, he might steal one and even the series, or if he loses, you can go back to the more seasoned Theodore for Game 3.
Now, understand Varlamov is no Justin Pogge. He has played for the Russian national team and he played extensively for Yaroslavl in the Russian league playoffs last year. He was Washington's first-round pick in 2006, so there's some pedigree here.
(Ed. Note: Pogge delivered the goods for the AHL Marlies Wednesday night, stopping 27 shots en route to a 3-2 OT win over Manitoba in Game 1 of their first round series.)
In six appearances this season for the Capitals, Varlamov was 4-0-1 with good numbers. He probably can't outplay New York's Henrik Lundqvist, but the Caps don't need that. They just need solid netminding, something Theodore, 40th in NHL save percentage, isn't likely to supply. Even when he made stops Wednesday night, he was coughing up unreasonable rebounds. Theodore gave up four goals on just 20 shots, and afterwards Boudreau made it clear he felt his club's defensive coverage was more than solid in front of his goaltender.
The Rangers got a huge boost by winning the game despite being without Chris Drury due to injury, despite surrendering 13 shots to Alex Ovechkin and despite three dumb penalties by veteran forward Markus Naslund.
They're probably licking their chops with either Washington goaltending choice, either getting another shot at Theodore or testing a raw rookie.
It wasn't just winning Game 1 that was huge for the Rangers. It was the way the Caps lost it.