Around 11AM this morning, it was announced that the Professional Hockey Writers Association's 2010 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee from the Washington Capitals is none other than goaltender Jose Theodore. The Masterton trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey", an honor for which Theodore is a more than worthy candidate, for his relentless loyalty to the Caps and consistancy of play after the loss of his two-month old son in August.
Throughout the season, Theodore has elevated his game to levels surpassing his Hart and Vezina Trophy winning performance of 2002. In addition to amassing a franchise record 22-game streak without a regulation loss (19-0-3), he has taken time to establish Saves for Kids, a foundation which benefits the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children's National Medical Center of Washington, DC - where his son spent his entire life. In addition to Theodore's personal donations for every save, win and shutout, several others have been inspired to assist in the fundraising (including us).
It's hard to pinpoint one specific save or period that was more spectacular than another throughout his season thus far, but we have a suggestion as to the moment from which Theo's play started its upward climb.
Following his 44-save performance against the Detroit Red Wings on January 19th, Theodore was rewarded for his performance with a standing ovation from the Verizon Center crowd. Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said his netminder's first-star performance was "the best I've seen [him]." Teammate Dave Steckel mentioned his play was "phenominal" in post-game conferences. You can see in the video that it catches him a little off-guard, and if you were present that night, you probably felt it too. And Theo has yet to back down from any challenger that has stood in his path since.
While there have been ups (a shut out against the New York Rangers on March 6th) and downs (3GA in 10 shots March 28th against the Calgary Flames), Theodore has been a welcome breath of fresh air between the pipes this season while while Michal Neuvirth has travelled Route 15 back-and-forth from Pennsylvania more than most truckers and Semyon Varlamov had several stints rehabbing an injured knee and groin.
While Boudreau has yet to name who will man the crease starting late April, I know who I will be cheering for - on and off the ice.