Work in Sports
From the locker rooms
Both sides pretty sedate after Game 1 blowout
Posted: Wednesday May 31, 2000 09:05 PM
By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It can take a long time to win four games in the NHL spring, which is why even after a 7-3 cakewalk in Game 1 of the finals, the New Jersey locker room was a quiet place.
The men inside have been through the playoff gruel before and because they know what hills and valleys a seven-game series can bring, they spoke measured words.
Ken Daneyko was the first Devil to greet the public, standing on a small wooden rise in the center of the room, his soft brown eyes easily surveying the incoming media horde. Daneyko's first goal of the season -- a low slap shot that gave the Devils a 2-1 lead -- was hardly enough to make him gloat.
He stood in stockinged feet, a white mock turtle encroaching slightly on his playoff beard, a waxed paper cup in his hand and said, simply, "We realize that this was not Dallas' best effort."
To a man the Devils seemed calm, though not entirely comfortable. They wondered: Will this beating inspire real anger in the Stars? Defenseman Scott Niedermayer, he, too, playoff bearded, had a pale green towel wrapped around his waist as he talked only of getting ready for the next game.
Even later when the Devils had showered and had time to ponder the fact that they had scored seven goals -- SEVEN! -- against a team that typically surrenders fewer than two per game, they were not impressed with themselves.
Bobby Holik, his dark purple tie set off against a lavender dress shirt, emerged cleanly shaved and announced that "what happened in this game doesn't matter anymore."
Then there was winger Randy McKay who opined that a kinder, gentler Stars team is not in the offing for Game 2. "I'm sure we pissed them off, there's no doubt about that," he said.
Glazed and confused down the hall
Dropping one game in a best-of-7, whatever the score, can be easily overcome. But losing always hurts.
You could see the impact in the Stars' dressing room down the hall. The Dallas players all had something of a glazed look about them. And for the most part they were packed in ice.
When you took your eyes off the mosaic of tattoos on shirtless winger Mike Keane -- he has Garfield waving a Canadian flag on his right pectoral; a Yankees NY on his right biceps; three Stanley Cups around his right ankle -- you noticed his left arm hanging limply, his hand invisible beneath a bag of frozen cubes.
Dallas center Joe Nieuwendyk came out, also shirtless. His ice pack bulged large off his right thigh. Next came center Kirk Muller with his right knee cooling under wraps. If the Stars were not quite shaken, they were certainly stirred. "A rude awakening," Nieuwendyk called the game.
Muller said the team needed to re-group. As he said this, defenseman Sergei Zubov, who played perhaps the worst playoff game of his career, strode by dressed all in black.
Finally it was goalie Ed Belfour, the victim of the first half-dozen Devils goals, who lightened the mood. He was taking de-congestants for a cold, he said, and his decision making was hampered. When did Belfour realize this was a problem? "Oh, after about the sixth goal," he said.
The Stars have some humor about them, and the pride of defending champions inside. There are games to go before either team sleeps, which is why there was such a muted mood in the Devils' room. No sooner had the evening ended than thoughts of tomorrow began.