The NHL

March 16, 2008

Back in Style

A resurgence byformer MVP goalie José Théodore could prove the most crucial of Colorado'sreturns

PETER FORSBERG hasreturned to Colorado from Sweden and Adam Foote has reemerged from Columbus,but Avalanche goalie José Théodore has come back from the metaphorical dead. ¬∂You remember Théodore. He was the Hart Trophy winner with the Canadiens in2001--02, only the third time a goalie had been named NHL MVP since JacquesPlante in 1962. Théodore then took a victory lap that, in essence, lasted morethan five years. His save percentage slipped from .931 in his MVP season to.882 in '05--06 when, during a pre-Olympic screening in February, he testedpositive for Propecia, the brand name of a hair-restoration product that isalso a steroid-masking agent.

Traded to Coloradoa month later, Théodore helped nudge the Avalanche past Dallas in the firstpostseason round, though his play (he gave up three goals a game) and that ofhis Stars counterpart, Marty Turco, had all the elegance of a Three Stoogespie-throwing contest. After losing his job last season to unheralded PeterBudaj, Théodore's confidence was shaken. His technique was in shambles.

But just when heappeared to have consigned himself to one-hit-wonder status, he clawed his wayback with the good counsel of Colorado goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, hisonetime backup on the Canadiens. "Last summer Jeff and I started sayingthat I had to get that desire back, to play like a rookie trying to earn aspot," says Théodore. "Sometimes you forget how hard you worked to getthere. Jeff always reminded me that he thought I was capable of being one ofthe best goalies in the league."

In breaking downtape Hackett and Théodore noticed that the goalie was playing more upright anddeeper in his crease than he had in Montreal. "By standing so straight, hewas compromising one of his biggest assets, that explosive lateral push acrossthe crease," says Hackett. "By coming out farther and being a littlelower, José [also] had better sight lines. He could see the play a littlebetter."

Since Jan. 1, aboutthe time he supplanted Budaj as Colorado's No. 1 keeper, Théodore has ranked inthe top three in goals-against average. He also had won six straight until a3--0 loss on Sunday in Dallas. He has been noticeably squarer to shots, butalso as acrobatic as ever. Says an Eastern Conference scout, "He looks justlike the guy you used to see in Montreal."

Forsberg also looksa lot like the kind of player you used to see in his previous incarnation inColorado: injury-prone. After playing effectively and generating two assists inthree games since being lured back just before the trade deadline—therepatriation of the brilliant, brittle Forsberg could help sell what a teamofficial estimated to be as many as an extra 30,000 tickets for Colorado'sfinal 10 home games—the 34-year-old forward missed the Dallas match.(Defenseman Foote also sat out, with a hip injury.) Forsberg's problemsnormally revolve around his cranky right foot. (Once he puts the foot into hissize-7 1/2 skates and plays a shift or two, it tends to shrivel by as much as afull size, a condition that has baffled his doctors for years. His heel startsslipping in the skate, creating balance problems.) This time, though, Forsbergwas nursing a groin injury, most likely caused by the surfeit of skating thatpressing to return to the NHL entailed.

In the modernsports argot Forsberg is a warrior (too bad he keeps being carried out on hisBlue Shield), and Théodore is a survivor. As Colorado battles for playoffposition in the Western Conference cage fight, both are just what the teamneeds.

NOW ON SI.COM Who'sin, who's out? Up-to-the minute playoff-race analysis.

PHOTOANDY DEVLIN/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (THÉODORE ACTION)SEEING THINGS Analyzing tape helped Théodore find the form he had in Montreal. PHOTOBRYAN C. SINGER/ICON SMI (THÉODORE UNMASKED)[See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)