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Giguere Is Money in the Bank

May 17, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

For better or for worse, goaltenders' reputations are made in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Patrick Roy emerged from nowhere with a breakout performance with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986. Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek followed similar paths to fame and fortune.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is poised to join them, and others throughout NHL history, with his goals-against average dwindling as his stock has risen during the Mighty Ducks' improbable journey to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance.

Giguere, who turned 26 on the day he led the Mighty Ducks to a 2-1 Western Conference finals-clinching victory Friday over the Minnesota Wild at the Arrowhead Pond, has positioned himself to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

His shutout streak ended at 217 minutes 54 seconds, the fifth-longest in playoff history, when Andrew Brunette redirected Cliff Ronning's shot from near the blue line for a power-play goal 4:37 into Game 4.

His demeanor did not change. He did not slam his stick in frustration. He sipped water from the bottle on the top of his net as waves of applause built to a standing ovation from 17,174 towel-waving fans.

"There has not been a young goaltender since Martin Brodeur who's come in and made an impact and handled all the aspects of the playoffs with such ease," said Darren Eliot, a former NHL goaltender who now is a television analyst and an Internet columnist.

"He's had great numbers in the regular season, with a .920 save percentage two years in a row, but if you look at him now, absolutely, this is the time of year that careers are defined."

Because of that sort of grace under pressure, Giguere has made a powerful statement to Duck General Manager Bryan Murray.

There's little question that Giguere is deserving of a fat new contract when he becomes a restricted free agent July 1.

Giguere made a relatively modest $900,000 this season, the last of his two-season deal worth $1.6 million with the Ducks, making him a bargain beyond measure when compared to Roy's $8.5 million with the Colorado Avalanche or Brodeur's $6.9 million with the New Jersey Devils.

Making like his goaltender, Murray easily deflects questions about upcoming negotiations with jokes about having to open his wallet to reward Giguere.

Both men would prefer to wait until the Ducks' wild ride is complete to address a new contract.

Others believe Giguere is due for a big raise because of his otherworldly play when it has counted for the Ducks.

"In terms of what he's meant to his team's confidence, the last one I would compare him to is Roy in 1993 against the Kings with those 10 straight overtime wins," Eliot said.

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