The Florida Panthers went 4-0-0 in a four-game home stand last week with a 3-2 shootout win Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.
And goaltender Jose Theodore was a big part of that. In all, the offseason acquisition is 22-13-7 with a 2.38 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
He, and a slew of other additions are on a mission to bring the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Instead of guys like Theodore, Tomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski, the Panthers were stocked with a group of youngsters who followed the footsteps of a Florida playoffs squad in 1997 led by John Vanbiesbrouck.
These guys included Jaroslav Spacek, Rob Niedermayer, Todd Simpson, Pavel Bure, Ray Whitney, and the goaltending tandem of Trevor Kidd and mid-season acquisition veteran Mike Vernon.
Vernon and the Panthers couldn’t hold their own ground very well, being swept 4-0 by the eventual Stanley Cup champions New Jersey Devils. The Panthers were outscored 12-6 in the series.
What make this season so different?
The Sun-Sentinal breaks down the basics of why Theodore is perfect for the playoffs:
“With 11 games remaining and the Southeast Division-leading Panthers driving toward their first playoff berth in 12 calendar years, Dineen has handed the keys to veteran Jose Theodore, who has played 51 postseason games compared to Scott Clemmensen’s one.
And Theodore has repaid Dineen for his confidence in him by flashing the form that earned the petite French Canadian the Vezina Trophy and Hart (MVP) Trophy during his 2001-02 season in Montreal.”
Bouncing around from the Canadiens, to the Avalanche, Capitals and to the Panthers, this may be Theodore’s finest stop yet, with a rookie coach in Kevin Dineen and a stocked blue line.
And the confidence level is high that the Panthers will break past the first round this time around.