Friday, January 18, 2008

Boudreau Goes To Plan B

Since no one else is doing it, I guess I'll step up and connect the dots.

Less than a month ago, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau "said he has no plans to reduce [Olie] Kolzig's workload."

Three weeks later, Boudreau said "It's important, quite frankly, to get [Brent Johnson] playing more down the stretch. As much as Olie is our No. 1, we'd like to give him a rest every now and again."

And now Boudreau is ready to "increase Brent Johnson's workload in the second half of the season" under the auspices of "an effort to keep Olie Kolzig fresh." But reading between the lines, it's clear that Boudreau is going to Plan B.

What's changed?

Since Boudreau took the helm on November 23, Kolzig has gone 11-6-4 with a 3.17 goals against average and a .879 save percentage. Over that same span, Johnson has gone 3-1-0 (and that one was a tough loss in which Johnny stopped 14 of 15 Philly shots in 34 minutes in relief of Kolzig) with a 2.07 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Frankly, the numbers speak for themselves. Boudreau has shown Olie the deference he deserves by giving him every chance to rebound (pun intended) and sharpen his game, but Kolzig can't quite seem to do so - he has a 3.69 GAA and .867 save percentage in his last seven starts and has given up four or more goals in four of them.

The other day I asked if we were past "If we're going to make the playoffs, it will be with Olie in net" and at "It's time to play the hot hand." And while I don't think we're at the point of a goalie controversy quite yet ("get a grip, man," as Tarik said), I think that his two netminders have left Bruce Boudreau with no choice but to play the hot hand, whether it's Kolzig or Johnson.

It's too late in the season to just sit around and hope that Kolzig regains his form (his goals against average is up over last year's mark and his save percentage is down from .910 last year to .888 this season despite the fact that the Caps are giving up more than 5.5 fewer shots against per game).

It's too late to play a guy for sentimental reasons or because you feel you owe it to him as some sort of lifetime achievement reward.

Boudreau may not "understand" goalies, but he does understand winning. That's why Johnson will start Saturday night's game against Florida - likely the most important game of the season thus far, given the Division and Conference standings. And that's why Boudreau has announced that Johnny could go on Monday night as well.

Make no mistake - Brent Johnson is not the second coming of Ken Dryden. But he has been known to go on hot streaks before and has earned the chance to show whether or not he can do it again. If he can't, Olie Kolzig be back in net for the vast majority of games. If Johnny can get on a roll and carry this team for a little while, however, it will only serve to make an already potent team even better. And at that point, we can loosen the grip and start talking goalie controversy.


Unknown said...

First, it makes Tarik look silly for snapping on his own blog.

Who doesn't love Olie? But the stats don't lie: He's 39th in GAA and he's 42nd in save percentage. At the very least he needs a few more nights off. Maybe that'll be good for him in the long run. (After all, we all hope there IS a long run!)

Anonymous said...

I'm still wondering why Tarik never stepped up and asked McPhee on the record why he passed on Bryzgalov.

I don't have a lot of confidence in Kolzig or Johnson at this point. But unfortunately there aren't a lot of options -- because of what appears to be a horrible decision by McPhee.. and he has never been asked to publicly explain that decision.


bradley said...

I think even if Tarik were to ask directly about Bryz, GMGM would just sidestep the question with another "we don't comment on other team's personnel" or whatever the line was that he used before. We're likely never to get a straight answer out of him over something like this, not unless things turn out really well for the Caps and he can somehow look back on it without looking bad.

As to the goalie non-controversy controversy, it'll be good to see Johnny get a few more starts now, he's got to make up for lost time to keep on the pace BB had hinted at for him and he seems to have shown in the past two games that he should be up for it. Olie's certainly not the pillar of consistency he used to be, so it really is going to come down to whether he's in a good groove or a bad rut (as BB would say). I guess Johnny's even less predictable, but at least the D seems to tighten up in front of him, if only a bit. I guess if there's one positive in all of this, it's that despite Olie having probably one of his worst months/6 weeks or whatever, the Caps have still been able to have one of their best in a long while. This is a team that can, at least for now, win without relying on Olie to save the day like he used to. Playoffs will be another story entirely I imagine, but we've gotta walk before we can run and there is plenty to be encouraged by so far.

Anonymous said...


Check our minor league goalies. I'm perfectly fine with waiting for one of them to make the transition up than to go with grabbing a goalie from someone else. (unless we somehow grabbed Luango.(sp?) But that'll never happen)

Anonymous said...

I believe Tarik was asked on one of his on-line chats about why the Caps never picked up Bryzgalov. His answer was that "they" were afraid of disrupting the chemistry in the locker room. Tarik never cited GMGM by name, but I assumed that he was the source for his statement. I have never seen anything in print or otherwise confirmed though. Here's the puzzling aspect to the Bryzgalov episode: the Caps were mired in a horrible slump at the time he was placed on waivers, if there was ever a time to shake up the locker room, then that was it. Their eventual plan B was to replace Hanlon with BB. So far so good, but the goalie situation, both in the near term and future is worrisome.


Anonymous said...

I love Bryz...on a fantasy team. He was supposed to be the future of goaltending in Anaheim, but they wound up releasing him. Why? Because he's a headcase and a borderline cancer (remember a season or two ago, when he claimed he was the No. 1 goalie--before camp started?). Bryz's performance is directly related to his state of mind--if he's not happy, he mails it in. He is a talent, but he also can undermine a locker room and team chemistry to the point you just want to get rid of him.

Sound like anybody you know?