Theodore gave up five goals on just 23 shots in Saturday's 5-2 loss to New Jersey at Prudential Center. It came on the heels of his poorest outing of the season three nights earlier, when the Islanders scored three goals on five shots before Theodore got the hook from coach Bruce Boudreau just 6:54 into a game the Caps would eventually win.
Theodore also gave up four goals on 28 shots in a 7-4 win over Florida last Saturday.
He knows what's wrong. Fixing it is now his main objective.
"I guess it's just getting back to being hungry like I was," Theodore said. "I don't think it's anything I do different with my technique or work ethic, it's just about having that jump that I had and getting back to being really focused. I need to have that extra edge that I had. The last week or so, it's definitely not good enough."
None of the goals Theodore gave up Saturday were particularly awful, but he didn't come up with any big saves either.
Colin White and Cory Murphy scored off deflections. Zach Parise scored on a breakaway. Jamie Langenbrunner scored on the power play with a powerful one-timer and Matt Halischuk scored with a high and hard shot off a 3-on-2 rush.
"Pretty much all the good chances they had they scored on," Theodore said. "It wasn't bad goals, but you have to find a way to make saves and obviously I didn't make the key saves. I'm really not happy with the way I have been playing the last couple of games."
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was fairly harsh in dissecting Theodore's play.
"I don't know if I see anything wrong with him, he's just got to stop the puck," Boudreau said. "The power-play goal was a clear shot by Langenbrunner, no screen. I know Parise's was a breakaway, but he made it look pretty easy. The next one (Halischuk's goal) was a short side over the blocker from outside the dot. Those things, Jose's got to stop."
Magnifying Theodore's recent struggles is the solid play of rookie Semyon Varlamov, who allowed only one goal on 30 shots in Friday's 3-1 win over Minnesota and just one goal on 26 shots in relief of Theodore in that game against the Islanders.
Varlamov has lost only once this season, a 3-2 decision here at Prudential Center on Nov. 4. He's 7-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. After Saturday's shellacking, Theodore is now 5-3-4 with a 3.24 GAA and .893 save percentage.
Boudreau won't say that Varlamov has jumped Theodore on the depth chart, but it's fairly obvious now that the young Russian, who should play Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, has an opportunity to take over as the Caps' No. 1.
"He had a bad game and he'll be ready to go the next time he starts, I hope," Boudreau said of Theodore. "His history is he plays a whole bunch of good games and then a couple of bad games and then he turns it around because he's mentally strong. We're hoping the same situation occurs."
"As a goalie it kind of sticks out more than when a player is having a slump," Theodore added. "It's up to me to get that focus back quick."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org