Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Man In The White Pads Comes To DC

The Washington Capitals hired Arturs Irbe as the goaltending coach as Dave Prior resigns to spend more time with family. Irbe, best known for his all white pads and blocker and unique mask with the grid cage, will be coming from the KHL where he was a goaltender coach for Dinamo Riga last season in his hometown of Riga, Latvia.

NHL's Cool Shots did a feature on him when his days in the pros were over and he took a player/coach position with the Johnston Chiefs. He was 36 then, he is 42 now. Irbe had some great seasons with the San Jose Sharks and Carolina Hurricanes. He took the 'Canes all the way to the finals in '03.

Having met Irbe twice, I can tell you he is a laid back soul. He has a quick wit and loves to play between the pipes. He had a never say die attitude on every play.

Speaking of goaltending, Jose Theodore will be making his case that he is the Caps' number one in the net. Tarik caught up with Theo and asked him about his status in the team:
"Like I said last year at the end of the playoffs, now there's no doubt that Varly and [Michal] Neuvirth are the goalies of the future. They are great goalies," Theodore said at KCI, where he faced shots from Jeff Halpern, Stephen Werner and other. "But for myself, if you look at the season, out of 82 games I still played [57] and had a pretty good record and was pretty consistent toward the end."
Corey, on his blog, caught up with Bruce Boudreau and Gabby seemed to back up what Theo was talking about:
"Right now Jose's the No. 1 guy, and the other two young men [Varlamov and Michal Neuvrith] have got to come in and play the way they did last year and try to push him out," Boudreau said. "Jose won [32] games for us last year, and like the year before when Cristobal [Huet] got hot down the stretch, Varly came in and did a great job where we just couldn't take him out."
This should make for a very interesting camp. Can the rookies out duel the veteran? I guess we will find out.

I tend to agree with Theo though, both he and Brent Johnson carried the weight of the season to get the Capitals a second place seed in the Eastern Conference. Theo was playing better and better as the season progressed. Call it a turn of bad luck if you will that led to him sitting on the bench in the playoffs. On his final year of his contract, one would assume that Theodore would be ready to play this year; willing to do anything keep his number one spot.

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