DENVER - Sometimes the best moves are the ones that aren't made.
The Colorado Avalanche could've severed ties with goalie Jose Theodore last off-season by buying him out of the final year of his contract. But the Avalanche kept him around.
Theodore helped Colorado steal a first-round series against Minnesota that the Avalanche clinched Saturday night with a 2-1 win in Game 6.
The Avalanche, who captured the series 4-2, are headed to the second round of the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 trips to the post-season since relocating to Denver. They're still waiting to find out their opponent in the next round.
Theodore was simply sensational in net for the Avalanche, stopping 188 shots in the series.
"He's the reason why I'm standing here now," Ian Laperriere said. "He's been playing unbelievable for us. If he can play better than this, we're all happy about that."
Under a different scenario, Theodore could've been elsewhere right now - had the team taken close to a US$4 million salary-cap hit and bought out his contract last summer.
The Avalanche had plenty of motive for the move since Theodore was coming off a lacklustre 2006-07 season in which backup Peter Budaj had replaced him in net.
However, the Avalanche appreciated his attitude as Theodore never pouted over his demotion, only worked harder to improve. The team also thought Theodore could return to the form that made him the Hart Trophy winner as the league's MVP in 2002.
Theodore believed that as well.
"You look at yourself in the mirror. You say, 'You do have the chance to show everybody that you're a goalie that can make a difference,"' he said.
He definitely made a difference this season - it just took him a while to get going.
Theodore missed the first three games of the 2007-08 season after having surgery on his knee in August. Upon his return, he split time with Budaj, then found himself sitting on the bench for a stretch of nine out of 10 games in mid-December.
But he soon returned to the net, and settled into a groove, posting the NHL's fifth-lowest goals-against average (2.24) since Jan. 1.
Theodore's scorching play spilled over into the post-season, especially in Game 5 when he helped the Avalanche to a crucial 3-2 win in Minnesota. He turned back 38 of 40 shots in the contest.
"We played our best game there and we couldn't win," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "He was solid the whole series."
The decision to keep Theodore around panned out perfectly for the Avalanche.
So did Colorado's moves at the trade deadline. The Avalanche have reaped rich rewards by acquiring defencemen Ruslan Salei and Adam Foote, who rejoined the franchise he helped lead to two Stanley Cup titles.
The Avalanche also benefited by enticing Peter Forsberg to put his skates back on and return to the team.
As to the effect the moves had on the team, Salei said it's hard to measure.
"All I know is I'm happy to be here," he said with a grin.
The evidence doesn't lie. The trio had a profound influence on the Avalanche's first-round playoff win:
-Salei finished the Wild series with a goal and two assists, and led the team in hits (19) and blocked shots (15).
-Foote, along with teammate Kurt Sauer, did a number on Minnesota's leading scorer Marian Gaborik, limiting him to just an assist in the series.
-Forsberg was his reliable self, scoring a goal and assisting on four more. He ranks third among active players in career playoff scoring with 171 points.
Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville was certainly pleased with the late-season acquisitions.
"We really felt at the deadline we helped ourselves a lot in all areas," he said. "Getting Footer back in the organization, and Peter returning, was huge for us. We like our lineup, we like the depth we have right now. With Jose in net, I think all aspects are pretty solid."
Theodore can't fully explain his sudden resurgence. However, he's quick to deflect any credit to his teammates.
"I'm really proud of the way the guys played in front of me," Theodore said. "You put extra pressure on yourself in the playoffs. ... When you have the chance, you show what you can do."