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This Goalie Offers Tougher Obstacle

May 29, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

Now that the Mighty Ducks are down a game to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup finals, their skeptics are quick to claim that the team's journey through the playoffs has been a little tainted because of the goaltending they faced.

The Ducks swept Detroit in the first round, but the Red Wings had Curtis Joseph in goal and not Dominik Hasek. In the second round, the Ducks needed six games to defeat Dallas and the Stars' unproven playoff goalie Marty Turco; and in the Western Conference finals, the Ducks swept Minnesota by dominating the Wild's overachieving goaltending tandem of Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson.

However, it didn't take long for the Ducks to realize in Tuesday's 3-0 Game 1 defeat against the Devils that New Jersey net minder Martin Brodeur is definitely the real deal. In registering his first shutout in a Cup finals game, Brodeur wasn't spectacular but good enough to make 16 saves in handing the Ducks their first blanking of the playoffs.

A breakdown of Game 2:

DUCKS' MOVE -- Captain Paul Kariya had only one shot on goal Tuesday and was held in check by the Devils' defense. He cannot allow that to happen again because the Ducks need his offense. Coach Mike Babcock has tried multiple line combinations to help Kariya get more scoring chances, but the key is Kariya, who has to get the puck on net.

In Game 1, the Ducks seemed to be thrown off by the Devils' aggressiveness and willingness to play a physical game. The Ducks, especially their defensemen, should be more prepared for that tonight. New Jersey was able to force the action by pressuring the Ducks' blue-liners when they had to make a play, which led to more puck-possession time for the Devils.

Throughout the playoffs, the Ducks held an edge over their opponents in the faceoff circle and in Game 1 against New Jersey they won 54% of their draws. But one key player who struggled for the Ducks was center Samuel Pahlsson. He had won more than 50% of his faceoffs over the first 14 playoff games but won only two of 11 faceoffs against the Devils on Tuesday.

NEW JERSEY'S MOVE -- Despite playing without injured forward Joe Nieuwendyk, Coach Pat Burns got a complete effort from the Devils in Game 1, with two of his best defensive players (John Madden and Jay Pandolfo) leading all New Jersey forwards in ice time.

Being able to give heavy minutes to Madden and Pandolfo is an edge for the Devils, who are not known for their explosive offense. Both players create scoring chances for New Jersey with their tough forechecking, which complements rugged defensemen Scott Stevens and Colin White, who know how to keep their bodies in front of players at the blue line and prevent odd-man rushes.

The Devils' all-around speed also seemed to give the Ducks problems. The closing swiftness of Jeff Friesen, Scott Gomez, Patrik Elias, Sergei Brylin and Madden made the Ducks play back on their heels more than they're used to.

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