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Xs and O's / Game 3 Report / STANLEY CUP FINALS * NEW
JERSEY VS. MIGHTY DUCKS

Duck Revival is Passion Play

June 01, 2003|KELLY HRUDEY

The passion that was missing in the first two games was flowing Saturday night for the Ducks. They fought through a lot of adversity, especially in the third period. Down 2-0 in games, it would have been easy to just say, "Here we go again." But in a really tough game, under heavy pressure, they were impressive. They were a lot stronger in terms of physical presence, which enabled them to win the little battles.

I wasn't surprised to hear that goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere stood up and challenged his teammates on the off day. He may be young, but he's the starting goaltender. That kind of pressure on your shoulders can accelerate the leadership possibilities. Players look to a goaltender to supply leadership, both on the ice and in the dressing room. If you carry that kind of burden on the ice, you should be allowed to stand up and say something.

There are different ways to do it. When I played, I didn't typically challenge guys. I left that up to Marty McSorley, Tony Granato, Charlie Huddy and Pat Conacher. What I did was to pick a guy on the other team and give our guys reminders of his tendencies. I'd tell them, "He likes to try this, he likes to try that, so let's not fall asleep."

The Ducks' passion became evident as soon as they stepped on the ice Saturday, Steve Thomas getting a penalty 15 seconds into the game. That certainly set the tone and let the Devils know this was going to be a more physical game. But I'm not sure that's the way to go about it, putting your penalty-killing unit out there that early in the game. I'd rather see Thomas hit somebody cleanly.

New Jersey's first goal, by Patrik Elias, was a brilliant shot, as close to a perfect shot as you'll find. Giguere didn't react as he normally does because it happened so quickly. You just can't react. Without taking much of a look at the net, Elias hit the puck as cleanly and confidently as I've seen anyone in a long time.

When I saw Devil goalie Martin Brodeur let in the Ducks' second goal when he lost the handle on his stick, I remembered the Kings' first Stanley Cup game 10 years ago in Montreal. I was clearing the puck when I took my eye off it for a second and the same thing almost happened to me. The puck deflected off my stick and nearly went in with the closest Montreal player 100 feet away.

I'm not surprised Brodeur didn't let it bother him because he's always so calm. And I wouldn't be surprised if the other New Jersey players had a pretty good laugh about it in the locker room after that period. Silly things happen in hockey, so you might as well have a chuckle over it.

The game-winning goal was set up when Adam Oates won the draw. There is no question the Devils miss Joe Nieuwendyk. He is the best in the league at taking faceoffs. Nobody else on the Devils was doing much on faceoffs. The Ducks were easily better.

When Ruslan Salei got the pass from Oates, Brodeur stepped up to get better angle and Salei hit a really good wrist shot. I think it surprised everybody that it happened that fast.

There is no question that the Ducks' Rob Niedermayer was, overall, the best guy on the ice Saturday. The Ducks also got strong games from Steve Rucchin, Mike Leclerc and Jason Krog. Krog had his best game in a long time. He didn't get a ton of ice time, but I noticed him a lot more than I had in the previous two games.

The Devils may have been bothered by the travel schedule. That may sound silly to a West Coast team, but teams on the East Coast are not used to a long journey such as this.

I look for Giguere to play even stronger in Game 4. The series is 2-1 and the Ducks have a reason to believe in themselves again.

*

Kelly Hrudey is second to Rogie Vachon in games and wins on the Kings' all-time goaltending list, but Hrudey stands alone in one category. He is the only goalie to lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals. That was 10 years ago when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games. Now a television hockey analyst in Canada, Hrudey lives in Calgary. He is serving as The Times' guest columnist for this year's Stanley Cup finals.

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