Admit it. You were wrong. You passed judgement too early, and you had a knee jerk reaction that you’d like to take back from that summer day in July when Dale Tallon announced that Jose Theodore was signed to a two year contract to become the Florida Panthers next goaltender. When it became obvious to Dale that veteran Tomas Vokoun and his “camp” weren’t going to accept what the Florida Panthers were offering, Tallon had to act quickly. He grabbed what he thought was the first and only choice to be the new Panthers netminder. And he hasn’t looked back.
Personally I had predicted this scenario if Vokoun didn’t sign because I always had faith in Theodore as a strong and more than capable backstop. Besides the fact that he’s been a fan favourite in many places he’s played, he always seems to respond to adversity. This year after what coach Kevin Dineen called a “stinky” pre season, Jose Theodore is displaying the type of goaltending that won him the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP in 2001-2002.
Let’s take a look at some stats:
* Games played: 24. On pace for 60.
* Wins: 13. On pace for 32.
* Goals against average: 2.32.
* Save percentage: .923.
I think that most readers would agree that they were nervous going into the season with Jose as the number one goalie, especially with that “stinky” pre season display. But one thing about Jose that you’ve seen on the ice, and we have seen in the dressing room is his demeanor. His confidence, and his personality reflect the way he plays. Nothing rattles him, nothing disturbs him, and he knows and believes he can do the job. It’s not that he’s overconfident, but it’s that he believes in himself and his ability. This was never more evident than two weeks ago when the New Jersey Devils visited the Panthers and blew open a three goal lead, prompting virtually everyone to think that a goalie change would be made following a horrendous first period. Not so, as Theo shut the door for the remaining 50 minutes, and with each save, his teammates became more confident, and went on to win one of the most thrilling games in Florida Panthers history, by a score of 4-3.
In talking with Jose after that contest, not once did he think he was going to be pulled, but he also had all the confidence in the world that as things settled down, and his teammates rallied around each other, they all knew that the game wasn’t over. His steady play between the pipes has been not only refreshing, but infectious to the rest of the team, allowing the Panthers to be able to take that odd offensive chance here and there, and be willing to force the play knowing that Jose has their back.
The speed and skill that this Panthers team has requires them to play a more uptempo style game, and thankfully the dump and chase drek of years past is gone. While being 35 years old, you have to remember that Theodore is just two seasons removed from a 30 victory year with the Washington Capitals, which was preceded by 32 the year before. His mishandling in the playoffs by a panicky head coach (Bruce Boudreau) led to his ultimate demise in Washington, and possibly to that teams playoff failures.
While this Florida Panthers team gets most of it’s energy and recognition from the performance of the FlashMob Line of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, everyone knows that you must have a solid goaltender that needs to keep you in games, and steal a few as well. Jose Theodore has provided the stability, and reliability in net that we’ve needed to keep this team in games, and be a true back bone for a club that continues to surprise.
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