By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
Jose Theodore is a Bruins killer. This is not news–at least it shouldn’t be.
Let’s take a trip back in time to the 2003-04 playoffs. Theodore, then a Montreal Canadien, helped his team battle back from a 3-1 deficit against the Bruins that included a big Game 7 shutout win in Boston and enough theatrical saves to make Tim Thomas blush. Almost eight years later, Theodore is still giving the Bruins headaches, this time with a dynamite performance on Thursday night when the Florida Panthers shut-out the Bruins 2-0.
It took more than 57 minutes of hockey for either team to get on the board but the Panthers’ Tomas Kopecky buried a rebound that stemmed off of a failed-clear attempt from Joe Corvo to put Florida ahead. Kris Versteeg added an empty-netter after Thomas, whose ten-game win streak was snapped, was pulled for the extra-attacker.
The Bruins got plenty of shots, but Theodore saved all 40 of them. There were plenty of near-misses, including five shots that hit the post, but that wasn’t enough to slip a win past the surging Panthers club that now sits second overall in the Eastern Conference.
“I knew right away that it was going to be tough for them to score goals,” said Theodore after playing in his 600th career NHL game. “When I feel like I’m on top of my game I know I’m tough to beat. And tonight we just played well, stuck with the game plan, didn’t panic, got away with the win.”
Blame it on the Bruins not being able to bury their chances, or maybe on Theodore just getting lucky but either way, it was a long night for the B’s shooters who were consistently being turned aside.
“I think the main thing right now for us is we can’t get down on ourselves,” said Milan Lucic, who was robbed most notably in the third with a nifty Theodore glove save. “We can’t get frustrated. We have to pick ourselves back up and start over again, and remember what got us those fourteen wins in fifteen games. That’s what should be our focus right now and not let frustration creep into our game just because we’ve had trouble these last two games.”
After backing up Niklas Backstrom in Minnesota last season, Theodore signed a two-year deal with the Panthers and is off to an impressive start. He’s 5-1-1 in his last seven games and 11-5-3 with a 2.17 on the season. Since the lockout, Theodore is a stingy 9-0-1 against the B’s, allowing only 16 goals.
“Boston’s an Original Six team,” said Theodore. “It was a big rivalry with Montreal. It’s easy to get pumped up, they’re always one of the best teams in the league. This year they’re defending the Stanley Cup, so there’s always something that gets you going and when you play against the best you want to raise your game.”
With the NHL realignment set to become official next season, Bruins will be seeing a lot more of the Panthers who would be joining the B’s conference. The Bruins will have to learn how to solve Theodore if they are to survive their newly acquired foe.