Well, today is official Happy Hockey Talk Day. And if you’ve read School of Block or The Cat Eye at all over the past 12 months, you know I’m a huge advocate of the mental and emotional, the motivational and inspirational aspects of goaltending. All too often these themes are buried and lost in the daily grind of fantasy notes, injury updates and trade offers.
Therefore, I’m proud to join Kukla’s new crusade by echoing his proclamation that today, December 1st, is the day to celebrate feel-good hockey stories. More specifically, it’s my firm belief that these stories are a great representation of what drives all goalies to play at their best and become more and more valuable.
The talent level in the NHL is so high that it often all comes down to the non-tangible aspects of the position. Things like reading the play, work ethic in practices and holding a lead is what separates a good goalie from a great goalie. So enjoy this handful of stories that encompass the true nature of Kukla’s theme, for the will to rise up victoriously can never be told the same way twice, nor will it ever die.
With a two-year contract fulfilled in Colorado, it was time for Jose Theodore to go after bigger and better things. Washington provided what he truly sought – a team looking for a starting goalie. That also meant more promise in the playoffs and a better opportunity, so off he went back to the Eastern Conference.
But like a thorn still stuck in his eye, Theodore’s past remained a bothersome object of affliction. In fact many pundits had come to believe that too much off-ice drama caused him to lose a grip on his game, and in a way they were totally right. But all of those things overshadowed the key factor that, back in Colorado, he was re-acquainted with old-teammate-turned-goalie-coach, Jeff Hackett.
That not only resulted in a return to top form, but a great first-round playoff series win over Minnesota, one in which Theodore was monumental. But just like in Montreal, things came crumbling down in a hurry. This time it was in the form of the Detroit Red Wings, who swept Colorado handily in the semifinals.
You could consider this season’s first quarter another adjustment period for Theodore. Other than a few glimpses of brilliance peppered throughout October, he was really feeling the squeeze from Brent Johnson. But over the last week, Theodore has shown much more promise thanks to a great outing in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota followed up by an easy win against Atlanta.
With Theodore suddenly back on the rise, the stage was set for the biggest regular season game of his career, a second chance at revenge against Montreal. His first came on Oct. 21, 2006 and was a complete disaster. Just like his career in Montreal, it started off strong but ended horribly after he allowed five goals in the third period to the delight of ravenous fans and went on to suffer the 8-5 loss.
But in a Capitals uniform, his focus and sheer will to prove the pundits wrong resulted in a 28-save shutout over the Canadiens in a 3-0 win. So for Theodore to be at the culminating point of his career with a game and moment like that is to be a part of something bigger than his name. In that game, Theodore was a living glimpse of everything that makes goaltending inspirational.
To all goalies and players alike, if you get knocked down, get right back up again. The will to win and the passion to play hard will ultimately overcome all walls and fences. Maybe you have to try a few times and maybe you don’t get to