Wings on the Brink
The performance of Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere has defending champion Detroit one defeat from elimination
Jean-S�bastien Giguere made 74 consecutive saves against the defending champion Red Wings last week but did not once, as the boys in the booth like to say, stand on his head. Giguere is a positional goalie: square to shots, quick across his crease and—in the opening week of the playoffs—the monarch of the butterflyers. Through three games he did not make a signature save for the Ducks, because his technique made most of his stops look easy. Giguere was not hot, he was simply good.
"He doesn't have to make the spectacular saves because of his good anticipation," says Detroit left wing Brendan Shanahan. Giguere stopped 97 of 100 Red Wings shots as the upstart Ducks won twice in Detroit; he made 63 saves in the 2-1 triple-overtime opener, a record for goalies in their first playoff game. Then in Game 3 on Monday night in Anaheim he shut down Detroit in a 2-1 win as the Mighty Ducks put the Red Wings on the brink of elimination.
The spate of comparisons between Giguere and his idol, the nonpareil Patrick Roy of the Avalanche, are as flawed as they are favorable. The two men are both scientific netminders who have been schooled by Fran�ois Allaire, the Mighty Ducks' goalie consultant who used to work with Roy during their days in Montreal. But Giguere is not the head-bobbin', goalpost-conversin' bundle of nerves that Roy, then 20, was when he won the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1986. Giguere, who turns 26 next month, is a former first-round draft choice with two solid NHL seasons behind him. He had an under-the-radar 2.13 goals-against average in 2001-02 for the dreadful Ducks and a superb .920 save percentage this season, in which Anaheim earned only one fewer point than Detroit over the second half. Says Ducks defenseman Keith Carney, "He's our backbone."
The Red Wings showed their backbone last spring in Round 1, winning four straight after dropping the first two at home to Vancouver, but this year there are some differences: Giguere is not the sometimes shaky Dan Cloutier of the Canucks, and Curtis Joseph is not Dominik Hasek in the Detroit net. Joseph looked awkward in Game 2, beaten by Stanislav Chistov for the first goal on an angle so tough it could have baffled Euclid. He also gave up a preventable winning goal to Steve Thomas with 4:14 left in Anaheim's 3-2 victory. If the Red Wings are to make another spirited first-round comeback, Joseph may have to play more like Giguere.
Devils' Defensive Stopper
Madden Is the Main Man
Goalie Martin Brodeur was his usual spectacular self as the Devils took a 3-0 series lead against the Bruins with a 3-0 victory on Sunday in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, but checking center John Madden deserved much of the credit. Working on a line with wingers Jay Pandolfo and Turner Stevenson, Madden was assigned to shadow high-scoring center Joe Thornton throughout the series. Whenever Thornton, who led Boston forwards in average ice time through the first three games (21:34), took a shift, the Madden-Pandolfo-Stevenson trio jumped over the boards like a pack of hunting dogs. "It's physically and mentally exhausting," Madden said after Game 2.
Despite giving away five inches and 30 pounds to the 6'4", 220-pound Thornton, Madden shut down one of the NHL's most skilled and physical forwards. Through three games Thornton, whose 101 points were third in the league during the regular season, had no goals and just two assists. In addition to stopping Thornton, Madden had a goal and four assists.
Madden thwarted Thornton in part by not allowing him to set up behind the New Jersey net, one of his favorite areas to operate. Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, the usual defensive pairing behind the Madden line, added a physical presence—Stevens, in fact, changed the momentum of Game 2 when he leveled Thornton late in the first period. If the Devils finish off Boston, Madden and his cohorts will be expected to get a similar assignment for Round 2.
Sticks and Stones...