Washed out from the spotlight over defenseman Mike Green's historic achievement last night was another milestone of great import: José Théodore won his 30th game last night, which makes him the third Caps goalie ever to reach that mark for DC. Jim Carey and Olaf Kolzig are the other two.
It's also the third time in his career that JT has reached that milestone, and first time since 2003-04. So while Green's 30th tally further solidifies his Norris Trophy candidacy résumé, Théo's 30th win is of a wonderfully redemptive quality for the former Vezina Trophy winner.
What does this mean? Well, no need to say that we told you so. (Except that I just did.) Thirty wins is a rare feat indeed, and indicative of what's been said all along about this Washington Capitals team: Théo needs only to be an "average" netminder in front of a fairly reliable and maturing defense. And supported by the kind of offense that inspires iconic sports photography and makes grown men and women weep with joy.
Right now, the team enjoys the third-best G/G average in the league. And so while a 2.80 GAA and a .902 SV% through 54 GP might not kickstart your red heart, we might reach a bit, and begin to draw an analogy between JT and the 2008-09 Caps and Grant Fuhr and the mid-80's dynasty of the Edmonton Oilers. Fuhr has five Stanley Cup rings to his credit, but his best SV% in those five regular seasons was .884. Different era, for sure. But you see where I'm going.
On NHL Live today, Coach Boudreau had this to say about the goaltending, and particularly JT:
"It's been as good as it has needed to be . . . If we're tied, and we need that one big save, we're good . . . Since that game in New York [December 23, 2008 @ NYR], Théodore's been really good."
It’s important to remember, in dreaming of a very near-term future of Les Capitals hoisting the Cup, that Théodore wanted to play for this team. He’s not some mercenary rental, biding his time for next season (though cynics can revisit that statement in the spring of 2010), like perhaps was some other goalie, who is now toiling away for a struggling Chicago squad.
He's also a player that seeks redemption, and to establish his legacy, a championship legacy, that sufficiently distances himself from his meltdown in Montréal, after reaching that Vezina high, the sins of his family, and his own authored controversy. (And Paris Hilton.)
At about the time that Théodore was signed to his 2 year, $9 million deal with DC, he said:
“[W]hen you reach the lows in your career and you bounce back up it makes you a better person and a better player. My confidence is as good as it’s ever been, so I know I can play at a high level for a long, long time.”
He's well up and off of the mat now, and re-engaged. Hungrier than ever for the ultimate victory that still eludes him. And the franchise. My confidence in him is as good as it's even been too. (For what that's worth!)
And what about Cristobal Huet? Since Christmas, Huet is 11-10-1 / 2.65 GAA / .904 SV%, and JT is ten wins better, with a 2.53 GAA and a .913 SV%. Is not everything coming up aces for GM George McPhee these days?
Did you know that, in his four trips to the playoffs as the #1 goalie, Théo's teams haven't once lost a first round? Yeah. I'm looking forward to a redemption of biblical proportions this spring.