The Panthers’ preseason this year was exciting for many reasons: the offense, the fights, and Gudbranson all have fans hyped for the start of the year. The one area that is in the back of every fan, however, has been Jose Theodore’s performance between the pipes. My colleague Frank Rekas has been insistent that this is only a blip on the radar (and maybe it is), but it does cause me a bit of concern. I would hate to be a wet blanket, but a seed of doubt has been planted in my mind by Theodore’s performance.
Of course, I am more assured than skeptical that Theodore can right the ship before the regular season begins. His track record backs up that theory, and he certainly has enough talent to play at a high level. It just baffles me that the goalie with the same talent could look so rusty in the two games he played in so far.
Theodore’s most egregious struggle came on September 29, when he only stopped only 30 of the 37 shots he faced in the game against the Dallas Stars. Although no local fan could see or hear the game (legally), it didn’t take a long look at the stat line to see that Theodore was not on his game. It wouldn’t be that bad if this was an isolated incident, but it happened in back-to-back games in which he played. Just five nights prior in Sunrise, Theodore stopped only 25 of 30 shots against the rival Lightning.
I was at that Lightning game, and he did not look comfortable at all to say the least. His positioning felt off, he couldn’t seem to pick up the puck well at all, and he didn’t move confidently around the crease. I remember a certain goal in that game in which Theodore could not handle a loose puck with his stick, a Lightning player took it away and circled behind the net, and before Theodore could get settled the puck was passed across the crease and knocked in for a wide-open goal. Jose barely moved his head: the play developed too fast and he barely could react when the puck was going tic-tac-toe in front of the net. Although there is some blame to be placed on the defense, there was not a lot of quality goaltending in that play either. It was the kind of goaltending that lets in seven goals in one game.
I still think that Theodore will bounce back: I do think he is a great addition and a solid starter. Sometimes a goalie can regain his game within just one practice. All he needs to do is to make a few good saves in a row and then he’ll start making a lot of good saves in a row. If Capitals Outsider writer Jeff Kleiman is correct in saying that Jose is a “streaky” goaltender, then he’ll get on a roll just like he will sometimes struggle. I just hope that Theodore can get on a good streak as the season starts Saturday night: we’ll be depending on him more than any other player on the Panthers.
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