I think most readers are familiar enough with our goaltending saga that I don't need to spend much time rehashing the sad history to date. Suffice to say that, after screwing with the heads of both goalies this season, Joel Quenneville seems to have finally settled on Jose Theodore as our starter. For two weeks, it seemed like a solid decision, as Theo rattled off his best sustained performance as an Avalanche. But, he's shown signs of cooling off lately and the question needs to be asked: should he still be our number 1?
Through a fortuitous bit of symmetry, both Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore have started exactly the same number of games this year (25) and each have one relief appearance. Statistically, there isn't any better time to compare the two. Let's do that, shall we?
There's your goalie stats through the first 50 games, unofficial but accurate to the best of my knowledge (sorry about the width - I didn't originally set this up to be a web file). It amazes me how similar their core numbers are. There's just a one-goal difference in goals allowed. Their save percentages are nearly identical as well. Budaj does hold an advantage in the win-loss column, but I think you attribute any difference to the fact that he had more starts when the team was playing better. For all intents and purposes, the core numbers for these goalies are identical.
Once you look into the secondary numbers, though, you start to see some differences develop. Budaj is about a half a goal per game better at even strength (2.13 vs 2.64), a key number considering how much we rely on our even strength scoring. Unfortunately, he is much, much worse when opponents are on the powerplay (9.60 gaa vs 4.35 for Theo). That's a huge disparity, and a big change from last season (when Budaj had a 6.75 in those situations, with Theo sporting an 8.05). Despite relatively equal ice time, Budaj has given up 67% of the PP goals this year. Ouch.
One other key area where Budaj holds an advantage is 1st period save percentage (.912 vs .881). I hashed this out recently at MHH, but it needs to be pointed out again that the Avalanche are 18-2-2 when they score first, and 8-18-2 when they do not. You saw last night how things normally work out for us when we're trying to come from behind: the wheels turn like crazy, but we don't go anywhere. Budaj's been solid in the first all year, while Theo has struggled (heck, even in this recent hot streak, his first period save percentage is a not-earth-shattering .897).
This solid stretch of play by Theodore is great, but it's worth noting that it's taken a stretch like this to bring his numbers to the level of Budaj. In other words, it's great, but shouldn't have happened to begin with. And, while he's playing his best hockey as an Avalanche, his numbers during this recent period are 5-4-1, 1.97 GAA with a 930 save percentage. Certainly nothing "wrong" about that, but you can't necessarily say that it is head and shoulders over the numbers Budaj put up when he played 9 of 10 games leading up to being benched by Quenneville (5-2-2, 2.09, .924).
Look, Theodore has been good. He won a couple of games for us that we had no business winning. But, the fact remains that he's really just elevated his game to NHL-caliber-goalie-level after years of severely substandard play. Statistically, you can't really argue that he's been any better than Budaj, either over the course of the season or through the most recent 20-game stretch. If you factor in that Budaj is 6-years younger than Theodore and is under contract next season, I don't really see any compelling reason to have Theodore starting...save one: if the Avalanche are thinking of trading Theodore, this recent showcase will have driven his trade value up, well, from null to something. But I don't think there's any chance in hell of us trading Theodore (heck, I'm frightened there might even be thoughts of re-signing him).
We have a tough road ahead of us if we're going to make the playoffs this year. We made need to put in a run like we did after the trade deadline last spring. You remember that one, right? It was the one backstopped by Peter Budaj.
I'm also attaching the game logs for each goalie, just because I have them handy.