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STANLEY CUP FINALS

It Could Be One and Done

A single goal may be all it takes to win in Duck-Devil series

May 27, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — About the only thing the Mighty Ducks are certain of is what the scores won't be.

"You are not going to see any 6-5 barnburners," team captain Paul Kariya said.

Said right wing Petr Sykora: "You are not going to see any 8-1 scores."

Said left wing Mike Leclerc: "We have to do whatever it takes, whether the game is 6-0 or 0-0 in overtime. But I don't think it's going to be 6-0."

The theme for the Stanley Cup finals between the Ducks and New Jersey Devils is pretty clear: Score a goal, win a game.

When the series begins tonight at the Continental Airlines Arena, there will be little margin for error and no reason for either side to be surprised.

"Well, I guess there is going to be a feel-out process," Duck Coach Mike Babcock said. "It's like walking out to the end of the dock and sticking your toe in the water to see what the temperature is. We know it's boiling. Let's race off the end of the dock. Let's get going."

The elements are simmering, even if tempers have yet to flare.

The Devils have a great goalie. So do the Ducks.

Martin Brodeur has two Stanley Cup titles on his resume with New Jersey. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has opened a few eyes in the hockey world -- Toronto, Detroit, etc. -- who have paid little attention, or heed, to the Ducks.

The Devils are a responsible bunch on defense. So are the Ducks.

New Jersey's Scott Stevens is the heart and shoulder of his team. The Ducks' Keith Carney has become visible on the radar for those tracking top-flight NHL defensemen.

The Devils wait patiently for their opportunities. So do the Ducks.

Jeff Friesen, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, someone is going to score that key goal for the Devils. The Ducks at one point had 10 consecutive goals from 10 players.

The Devils won 24 one-goal games during the regular season. So did the Ducks.

So be ready to be entertained by two teams that conserve energy: no red lights (behind the goal), long-lasting lightbulbs (on the scoreboard) and more hockey for your dollar (overtime after overtime).

"Well, low-scoring games can be exciting," Kariya said. "If you have seen some of the saves Jiggy has made in the playoffs, that makes pretty good television. I think, yes, these are great defensive teams, but these are also two great skating teams. I think there will be some offensive chances. Great goals, great saves.... It's the Stanley Cup finals and I'm sure everyone will be tuning in."

And for those just tuning in, the Ducks are coming off a 10-day layoff, the longest between series in NHL history, and bring along a growing reputation.

Giguere has made a name for himself. The Ducks have almost a Zen-like, tonight-is-the-most-important-game approach. Everyone has contributed on offense, with no one having more than five goals in the playoffs and five players with at least three.

All that seems pretty familiar to Devil Coach Pat Burns.

"I don't think there are any big differences in these teams, talent-wise, skill-wise, goaltender-wise," Burns said. "Marty has won two Cups, and that's the only big difference I see."

Giguere is working on closing that gap.

He has been brilliant when necessary and merely excellent other times. Giguere made the upsets of Detroit in the first round and Dallas in the second round possible, then allowed a record-low one goal in four games against Minnesota in the Western Conference finals.

"We don't want to be shocked -- we won't be shocked -- by what they are doing," said Devil center Joe Nieuwendyk, who is unlikely to play in Game 1 because of what is being called a lower body injury.

The Devils also offer few surprises, except maybe for Friesen's ability to put the puck in the net, something he struggled with as a Duck last season. He has three game-winning goals in the playoffs.

Giguere's numbers in the playoffs are incredible, and Brodeur is right in his wake.

"Our goaltender has been good, their goaltender has been good," Babcock said. "But their goaltender has measured up at this time of the year and won."

While the Ducks are making their debut in the finals, the Devils are here for the third time in four seasons. The secret to their success is simple: They keep it simple.

The Devils showed that in dispatching Ottawa in Game 7 to end a grueling Eastern Conference finals Friday.

"Joe Nieuwendyk went down and they had every excuse to fold in Game 7," Babcock said. "It didn't make one bit of difference. They found a way.

"I think [this series] is about getting on offense as fast as you possibly can. The way you do that is you're professional without the puck and you're in a good situation and then you get on offense."

Everyone on both sides knows the score, or at least what the scores will be.

"Every game is going to be a 2-1 battle," Sykora said. "Every player knows that something will happen late to decide the game."

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