By the time the final horn sounded last night at the Xcel Energy Center, and command of what has been the most brutally contested series in the NHL playoffs was ceded to the Avalanche, there wasn’t much an objective viewer could say outside of “the Wild should have won that game.”
Because really, the Wild should have won that game.
The Avalanche were out-skated, out-shot and out-muscled by a desperate Minnesota team that did everything they could to win. Only they didn’t because of one man, Jose Theodore.
During his tenure with the Avalanche, Theo has been much maligned, and often viewed as the poster child of underachievement in Colorado hockey. In fact, if I went around even two weeks ago and asked Avs fans who they thought should be manning the pipes for the team, Peter Budaj would have been the most popular answer.
Whether it was his disqualification from the Olympics because he was rung up, for all things, using Propecia, or his short-lived relationship with Paris Hilton, or his penchant for allowing four goals a game. Theo was a train wreck and just didn’t measure up to the standard imposed by Patrick Roy. Maybe Avalanche fans really are that spoiled that we won’t allow a goalie to be considered good until he wins three Conn Smythe Trophy’s while fighting Mike Vernon at center ice.
Shoot, I speak for a fan base who somehow managed to convince themselves that David Aebischer was the next great Colorado goalie out of desperation to fill the gaping void left by St. Patrick. And truly, I was not a fan of Theodore until as recently as the All Star Break when some how, some way, he started stopping pucks and the Avalanche started winning. He just couldn't get anything right.
Going into this season Theo was viewed as an anchor; he was dead weight. He was as useful as a box of well, hair. His contract was killing the team, and essentially prevented the Avalanche from acquiring the veteran talent necessary to actually make the playoffs. Jose Theodore was the root of all evil.
Yet after last night in a game in which the Avalanche should have packed up and resigned themselves to wishing Joe Sakic a happy retirement, Theo didn’t quit; he didn’t even come close. The man didn’t just stand on his head, he was break dancing! In a performance as good or better than anything Patrick Roy put up in the burgundy and white, the Avs goalie came up with impossible save after impossible save, and not only kept the Avalanche in the series, but probably broke the spirit of Minnesota in the process.
Andrew Brunette, Wojtek Wolski, and finally, miraculously, Paul Stastny all scored important goals. But years from now Colorado fans will be talking about the game when Theo came alive and broke the Wild with a performance that can only be deemed legendary.
Maybe this is the year the Avalanche will their way back into hockey relevance on the back of a crafty former Hart Trophy winner who finally rediscovered his game.