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He Remembers It Too Well

June 10, 2003|KELLY HRUDEY

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.


Watching the tears come into the eyes of Duck goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere after the game really got to me. I thought, "Been there, done that." The same emotions came out in me when the Kings lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals a decade ago.

That's why I didn't take my mask off at the time. I'm not kidding.

It must have left more of an emotional scar on me than I thought. As I stood there, watching the Ducks march into their locker room and saw the emotional distress on their faces, it took me back 10 years to when I was walking out of the Montreal Forum.

People will tell Giguere he had a wonderful season and that he'll realize that when the hurt of this defeat fades, but I kind of doubt that. The memory of this loss will be so disappointing that I don't believe he'll have so much as a second thought about beating Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota. He'll just be focused on this disappointment, the loss of this series.

What we saw in this series was the evolution of the game. We saw great defense, very few breakdowns and incredible goaltending on both sides.

The biggest emphasis was on defense. This was supposed to be the battle of the goaltenders, but because both teams have such good defensive systems, the goaltenders didn't get as much work as they have in other series.

I was delighted Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy. It's changed since I played, changed for the better. The award used to be based more on play just in the Stanley Cup finals rather than the duration of the playoffs. It should be for the length of the playoffs as a whole. And in that regard, I think Giguere almost wrapped up the award in the first three series. If you asked who was the most valuable player in the postseason from the first day until now, it would be impossible to argue it was anybody but Giguere.

The New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur also had a tremendous postseason. He had an incredible three shutouts in the finals. But it's almost as if he gets penalized because he has such a tremendous defense in front of him. Maybe some people haven't given him the credit he deserves.

That's unfortunate. Look at his record. He has three Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal, and it's almost as if he has done it with little fanfare.

Besides Brodeur, what the Devils showed again in Game 7 was what a tight unit they are. They make unwavering demands on themselves, and they just don't give other teams chances.

Don't be fooled into thinking it's only the system. Take Jamie Langenbrunner, for example. He has a real good scoring touch, but he's not going to take chances on offense that might hurt the team. So, he plays a bit of a grinder's role. That's what it's all about, accepting roles.

Because of that, and because of the system, I think this team is about as close as you're going to get to a dynasty in this age of free agency.

Their attitude stems from Scott Stevens. Everyone is accountable for his own play and, if any player falls short, he has to answer to Scott Stevens. Not a management person. It's Scott Stevens.

We had the same thing on the Kings with Wayne Gretzky. If we had a bad game, we felt as if we let him down.

While we're talking about a dynasty for the Devils, that is not the case for the Ducks. As great as they were in the playoffs, they still have a lot of competition just in the Western Conference.

They will still have to worry about making it through the early rounds of the playoffs next season. They will have stiff opposition.

But one thing about the future the Ducks shouldn't have to worry about is their goaltending. I don't think we have yet seen the best of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

I know that's a frightening thought considering the level he's at now. But with a little more development on his part, we may be seeing the future of goaltending.

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