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Real Star Is Guy Named Brodeur

May 29, 2003|Adrian Wojnarowski | The Hackensack (N.J.) Record

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The thoughts whirling within the mind of Martin Brodeur on Tuesday were unmistakable: He wanted to see the great Jean-Sebastien Giguere meet the magnitude of the moment in these Stanley Cup finals. This was different now. Wait until the Devils started rushing his net, until the burden of his brilliance settled into his system. His magical, mystical march to the championship series was destined for a collision course with Brodeur, the champion across the ice.

The world was waiting on Giguere, waiting to watch the overnight sensation who had been sitting on Jay Leno's couch a few days ago, waiting for him to drag himself into Continental Airlines Arena, into the hellacious heat of the best-of-seven for the best in world.

Before they had gone to the ice for the Devils' 3-0 Game 1 victory, there was Brodeur setting the guidelines for his teammates' greeting of Giguere in the finals.

"We need to make him think that he's more human than he's hearing," Brodeur said. "He's been having a great [playoffs], as good as anyone who's ever played the game. The pressure is there, the expectations are big. The way he's played, it gets bigger and bigger."

Brodeur shrugged.

"I've been here before."

It was too easy to tell. The Great Wall of Giguere came crumbling down in Game 1, a loss that will test the Duck goalie's resilience now. He has climbed to the biggest stage of all and discovered that staring down Brodeur is a tough, tough task this time of year.

This was Brodeur's fifth shutout of the playoffs -- the 18th of his playoff career, second to Patrick Roy. The hardest job Brodeur had in Game 1 was staying sharp late, when he had so little action early. The Ducks were sluggish, struggling with synchronicity after those 10 days off between the conference finals and Tuesday night. The Devil defense mounted a wall for him, letting only 16 shots reach Brodeur. As degree of difficulty goes in playoff games, this wasn't heavy lifting. One more shutout in this series, and Brodeur ties Dominik Hasek's record of six set a season ago.

For the first time in the championship series, the young goalie chased him. For so long, Brodeur was the kid. No more. He's 31. He has cemented his legacy. Yes, this was his season for the Vezina Trophy, maybe even the Hart for the season's MVP. This season was supposed to be all about him in the NHL, but Giguere had risen to make himself the story of these playoffs.

"Playoff hockey is all about goalies," Brodeur said. "It's all about how your goalie keeps you in the game; whether he is going to win a game or lose a game for you."

The way Giguere has dominated in these playoffs, the Devils were desperate to get to him fast in Game 1. The Ducks hadn't played for so long and they wanted him to believe that the ferocity of his focus had been burst.

So, the Devils pressured him. They stayed on him. They pumped 30 shots on the net. Giguere had given up only four goals in the Western Conference playoffs and now he has something to think about on the off day. He had little chance on the Devils' second goal, blocking one shot only to leave the net wide open for Grant Marshall. And the third was Jeff Friesen scoring on an empty net with 22 seconds left, with Brodeur delivering the assist, the seventh of his playoff career.

If the Devils didn't obliterate Giguere's sense of invincibility, they punctured it. The losing goalie in the Stanley Cup finals can feel like the loneliest man in the world. Brodeur always has lived for the solitude of it, finding himself far more often on the winning side of the rink.

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