Francois Beauchemin vs. Jose Theodore
Beauchemin was considered a throw-in for what appeared on the surface to be purely a salary dump. Instead, the Ducks have reaped unexpected dividends with the emergence of the Sorel, Quebec, native as a front-line defender.
Paired with Norris Trophy finalist Scott Niedermayer, Beauchemin has shown both grit and a surprising dose of offensive ability since his arrival on the West Coast. The Ducks were 35-20-8 after the trade and Beauchemin finished the regular season third in the NHL in average ice time among rookies.
His play has not faltered since the playoffs started. Beauchemin is averaging 26:16 in ice time and finished the first round with two goals and three assists. He has a deceptively heavy shot and, in fact, sent Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff's headgear flying with one memorable one-timer during Game 6.
Beauchemin originally was drafted by Montreal, but was claimed on waivers by Columbus just prior to the lockout. Beauchemin was out of shape when he arrived in Anaheim, but once he shed a few pounds, he began to assert himself as an important piece for the Ducks.
Although defense partner Scott Niedermayer admitted he had no idea who Beauchemin was when the trade happened, he sure does now. So do opposing players.
The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner has significant playoff experience, not the least of which was a stellar turn in the Avs' first-round, five-game upset up heavily favored Dallas.
But of all the goalies still toiling, Theodore is the one who bears most watching because of his history, not only this season, but also in recent years.
When Theodore stopped 50 of 52 shots, including 11 in overtime, in Game 5, the 29-year-old looked much like the young man who just a few years ago appeared ready to join Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy in the pantheon of world-class French Canadian netminders.
Yet, his first-round effort stands out in stark contrast to his regular-season performance, which, to be charitable, was uneven. So inconsistent was Theodore in Montreal that GM Bob Gainey shipped him to Colorado at the trade deadline for David Aebischer.
Now, all eyes again will turn toward Theodore with the question: what next? Was the Dallas series the start of a long playoff run heavily spiced with redemption? Are the Mighty Ducks next? Or will the other shoe drop on Theodore and the Avs?
Inconsistent or not, Theodore appears to have won over his teammates in the Colorado dressing room.
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