Billington or Charpentier?!

By Seth Keggins

Billington or Charpentier?
September 26, 2002

Washington, D.C. – After two periods of play, the score was 0-6. Defensively, the team was lethargic and the penalty-killing unit was horrible. But as a goaltender, you have those types of nights. Recall the 5-11 drubbing against the Ottawa Senators last season. I don’t even want to recall the exact date of this game, but how could one forget the final outcome. Kolzig sitting on his shorts at the end of the first period; falling as he attempted to stop a caroming puck. Chris Simon fighting Chara, not once…but twice (and there has not been many Chris Simon fights since he got married). But back on topic shall we…there is a battle taking place in the Capitals training camp between incumbent back-up goaltender, Craig Billington and new challenger Portland Pirate workhorse, Sebastien Charpentier.

In preseason play thus far, Craig Billington has notably been the in the red since giving up all six goals in a 3-6 loss, in which Richmond Renegades goaltender Rastislav Stana took over in the middle of the second period (shutting out the Penguins the rest of the way). Oh, did I mention Chris Simon actually dropped the gloves with Steve McKenna.

Charpentier on the other hand has played in two games, against the Flyers and Bruins. He let in one goal in a 1-4 loss against the Philly squad and looked a tad shaky early on. The younger Philly roster provided a lot of traffic and pressure but he made some pretty decent saves, with exception to the Gagne goal. Boston in the following night peppered him with a multitude of shots (14 after one period) but he only let in two goals-one of which was on a 5-3 advantage. Sebastien is also proven at the AHL level, having put on a dazzling show last season in Portland, behind an iffy and depleted defense.

In tonight’s preseason match-up against the Dallas Stars, don’t be surprised to see coach Butch Cassidy go with Billington. Billington needs to redeem himself as a solid back-up choice. As for Charpentier, he needs to play at least one more game (perhaps against Carolina) to prove to the coaching staff that he is capable of backing-up Vezina goaltender Olaf Kolzig. Statistics from last season show that Sebastien is proven at the AHL level, but the question still remains-is he ready to make the jump?

If Charpentier is ready to make the jump, then what will G.M. George McPhee do? Will he send out a fax to all the teams in the NHL (like he’s done for restricted free-agents Zubrus and Nikolishin) pointing out that Craig Billington is expendable? Rumor has it that Tampa Bay wants someone to back up the “Bulin-Wall”. There is also Columbus, who may want a veteran goalie behind Marc Denis. Only time will tell, and the remaining preseason games will tell who will back up Olie the Goalie.

Billington is a great locker room presence, and unfortunately that is the only thing in his favor thus far in the preseason. Redemption tonight against Dallas will secure his job; otherwise it will be time to hand the reins over to Sebastien Charpentier.