Why Situational Goalies in Washington Can Work

Now that the goalie “controversy” has somewhat settled in Washington, it’s time to take a look at what’s best for the Caps as they head into the second half of the season.

It seems as though Brent Johnson has injured his way out of the controversy (for now), making way for Jose Theodore, who has won over the Capitals trust while winning eight of his past ten starts.  That being said, with a few solid starts, Johnny can work his way back into contending for the starter spot…But for now, the Capitals rotation looks like Theo gets three, Johnson gets two.

But what if hockey coaches implemented the same strategies as baseball managers do with relief pitchers?  Now I’m not making the argument that Theodore should be pulled with five minutes left in the third so Johnson can get the “save,” but in a broader sense.  What would happen if the Capitals played one goalie for away games and one goalie for home games?

Call me crazy, but the numbers are pretty convincing that this plan has the potential to work.  The plan would be to start Johnson at home, and Theodore on the road.  Before I get into why the Caps should do this, here are the records of the two net-minders at home and on the road:

Goalie Records
Sure records are a great stat, but maybe Johnson’s great home record is just the product of a team with a 19-3-1 record at home.  If you’re not convinced yet…well you shouldn’t be.  Now take a look at save percentage numbers at home and on the road:

Save-percentage
Johnson leads home and away save percentage, but Theo is just about even for away games.  Keep in mind that Tim Thomas leads the league in save percentage with a .937 mark…the same as Brent’s numbers at home.  A common misconception is that everyone is better at home.  Just looking at Thomas, his away save percentage is almost 20% better than his home save percentage.

The final goalie stat to take into consideration is Goals Against Average.  GAA tells you straight up how many goals you allow per game (on average), and is probably the biggest inclination of how good a goalie is.  As you can see, the trend continues:

GAA
Once again, Johnson has better stats at home.  Sure Jose has played five more games than Johnson, but if Johnny can put up these numbers every time at home, why not start him for every home game?

Now that we’ve seen how the goalies respond to home and away games, it’s time to look at the team as a whole.  If there is a huge discrepancy, it would be logical to go through with the plan…right?  This next image shows goals-for in home and away games depending on the goalie:

Average-Goals-For
As you can easily notice, the offensive trends agree with the strategy of playing Theodore on the road and Johnson at home.  In fact, 3.42 and 4.22 goals-per-game would lead the league in both categories if that were the Capitals total goals-for.  Detroit leads the league in both categories (for teams that have played as many games on the road/at home as the Caps have), averaging 3.38 goals-for on the road, and 4.0 goals-for on home ice. Playing one goalie at home and the other on the road would easily solve the goalie situation in the nation’s capital.  The remaining schedule will have the Caps play a handful of games on the road, then come back and play a few at home.  Instead of having Bruce Boudreau keep the goalies guessing, the starters would be known depending on the venue.

Sure one goalie might struggle and therefore lose a start, but this should be the remaing format for the rest of the year.  The playoffs are a completely different story, but if every stat favors Johnson at home (including zero regulation losses), there should be no reason (other than injury) that Theo should start at the Verizon Center.