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Xs and O's KELLY HRUDEY

Goalies Have Lost Their Edge

June 08, 2003|KELLY HRUDEY

One minute, people are talking about rule changes because this series is so low-scoring. Now all of sudden, we have a shootout with 16 goals scored in the last two games. How does that happen? It doesn't take an expert to figure that out. The goaltending has simply not been as sharp.

The Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere may have wound up on the winning side Saturday, but he looked shaky at the start of Game 6, not as confident as he has been in the past. Perhaps he was still thinking about Game 5 when New Jersey scored six goals.

Once the Ducks got the lead Saturday night, of course, Giguere's confidence grew.

The Ducks' got lucky on their first goal, the puck going in with the inadvertent help of two Devils. But then the Ducks added to their lead with two good goals that went in on Devil goalie Martin Brodeur's glove side.

Now I know I've said that coming into this series I didn't think Brodeur's glove side was a weakness and I'm sticking to that. I still don't think so. He has typically been excellent on that side in the past.

But for whatever reason, the goals are being scored on that side. For whatever reason, there's a trend here and the Ducks have to keep trying to exploit it.

People who watched me play here in Los Angeles remember, I'm sure, that I would get beat on shots in a certain area and the other teams would keep going back to that area until I figured it out.

Even when it was 3-0 Saturday, however, I didn't think the Ducks were playing very smart. They gave up too many chances, gave up too many two-on-ones. The Devils were playing better at that point. For the Ducks, that is not the safest way to play if you hope to get your hands on the Stanley Cup.

But it all turned around with the emotional high point of the game, the sequence of events involving Paul Kariya.

Let me say, first of all, that I thought Scott Stevens' hit was a clean hit. There is no question about that. It was an incredibly hard hit, but there was nothing dirty about it.

For Kariya to get up from that, to come back into the game to a huge ovation and then to score his first goal of the Stanley Cup finals had to provide him with the biggest adrenaline rush of his career.

And look for that feeling to carry over to Game 7. If you are in the doldrums, as Kariya was, one play can pull you out of it. It doesn't have to be a series of plays. One play such as that, and the next thing you know, you're not struggling anymore.

The other Ducks got their own adrenaline rush from that as well. When your captain comes back to have his best effort of the series, that's what you look for as a teammate. That's why he is the captain.

I approve of New Jersey Coach Pat Burns' decision to pull Brodeur when it was 5-1. I would have actually pulled Brodeur when it was 4-1 because, at that point, there was no chance the Devils were going to win.

Now I know I said the opposite about Giguere in Game 5, that I wouldn't have pulled him with the game out of hand in the last seven minutes because I thought it might affect his confidence.

But Brodeur has been around long enough to realize his coach's decision wasn't about Game 6. It was about getting ready for Game 7, getting some rest. He got to rest for nearly a whole period. Remember, he has played a lot of games in these playoffs and still ahead of him is today's coast-to-coast trip back home for Monday's game.

So who am I picking in that game? Well, I've picked the Ducks all along. I'd look like a fool if I gave up on them now.

*

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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