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Xs and O's KELLY HRUDEY /STANLEY CUP FINALS NEW JERSEY
VS. MIGHTY DUCKS / GAME 4 REPORT

Ducks Put a Rush on the Job

June 03, 2003|KELLY HRUDEY

Everybody, of course, will focus on Steve Thomas taking his shot, the puck flying in on the glove side past Martin Brodeur and the Ducks leaping in celebration.

What may not have been as noticed was a key change in strategy that contributed to the Ducks' victory. It was evident from the start Monday that they were getting the late guy involved in the rush, whether the forward trailing the play or the defenseman joining the rush. I think they learned something from watching the Devils earlier in the series, watching them do extremely well at getting out of their zone.

Less than five minutes into the game, Steve Rucchin got the puck to Niclas Havelid for a shot. Even though that shot was wild, it was a great scoring chance. I thought it was obvious right there that the Ducks had worked on their technique.

On the goal, Sandis Ozolinsh joined the rush, coming in late, and Thomas was smart enough to lay back and not get caught in too deep. He waited patiently for his shot and got it.

The Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been phenomenal. And believe me, this is not to take anything away from him because, being a former goaltender myself, I know how good he has been. But the fact that he has the all-time record for scoreless minutes in overtime is indicative of where the game is right now. You're going to see a lot more 0-0 games. It's because of the system every team plays and how strong everybody is on defense.

As a result, records like Giguere's won't last long. All you need to know is that the old record-holder was Patrick Roy, someone who just retired. You don't have to go back to the 1920s to find the old record-holder. And you don't have to look too far into the future to see records being set.

Even though I loved to see great defense when it was in front of me, I would not be totally against a rule change to create more offense, maybe reducing the number of players on the ice.

Still, games like Monday's are extremely exciting. People who love baseball often feel the best games are the pitching duels that end 1-0. Just because a hockey game is low-scoring doesn't mean it's boring.

And even though it was 1-0 on Monday, there were scoring chances.

There were several posts hit and there was the near goal that Brodeur batted away just before it crossed the line. Those were always the trickiest things for me. He played it differently than I used to play those shots. He tried to catch it. I would let the puck go through and just hope somebody on the other side was not close enough to get a whack at it. I was always afraid of what almost happened to Brodeur happening to me.

The sound of that puck clanging off the post certainly brought back memories. As a goalie, when you hear the clang, you don't let out a sigh of relief. The sigh only comes when you see the puck go outside rather than coming back in.

The way Giguere is playing has to be a big relief for the Ducks. It was obvious that the victory Saturday really improved his confidence. He looked so relaxed Monday, and played even better than he did in Game 3. I'm thinking he's going to be incredible in Game 5.

For the Devils, they are going to have to find a way to do better on faceoffs in Game 5. Yes, Joe Nieuwendyk is their best man on faceoffs and he's injured. But they still have to find a way to get the job done. If they feel they can't win faceoffs cleanly, then they are going to have to tie the other guy up.

Emotionally, I don't think the Devils will have a problem. They don't tend to get down too much because of their veteran leadership, beginning with Scott Stevens. They don't make the game tough on themselves by over-thinking.

If I was their coach, Pat Burns, would I change anything?

Yeah, I would bring Nieuwendyk back if I could.

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