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GAME 2 REPORT | Xs and O's KELLY HRUDEY /STANLEY CUP
FINALS NEW JERSEY VS. MIGHTY DUCKS

Ducks Are Caught in the Trap

May 30, 2003|KELLY HRUDEY

Much is being made of the New Jersey Devils' trapping defense in these first two games, but not by me. Nearly every team plays the trap. The difference in this series is not the system. It's the passion.

What I see is that the Ducks are not fighting through the trap. They are not playing with the same emotion they had in the first three rounds. They are becoming frustrated and, as a result, they are trying to play a little too safe.

Paul Kariya, who has been held to one shot in the two games, is an interesting example. He had a really strong regular season. Now, he's still trying to play the system that worked so well for him all year, but there are moments when he could break free. He's not doing that and I think it's because he's afraid of not being in position defensively.

Everybody mentions Kariya first, but it's safe to say everybody on the Ducks has to play better. I saw certain guys on that team sparkle in the first three rounds and I'm not seeing that same sparkle now.

Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh is skating with the puck too much. On the one hand, that's why you love him. He's willing to gamble and skate. But what's happening in this series is that he's getting to the blue line and finding himself with no choices to make because the Devils have all gotten back. His next option, it seems, is usually a bad one. Instead of getting the puck in deep, he tries to make a play. Not good.

He should be moving the puck quickly, reading the defense and waiting for an opportunity to jump into the rush.

Generally, carrying the puck all the way up the ice doesn't work because the defenses have become too tough. You leave yourself open to turnovers, especially against a team that uses the trap defense.

One good thing the Ducks did in Game 2 was get a little bit more traffic in front of Devil goalie Martin Brodeur. They didn't score, but it was a step in the right direction.

One of Brodeur's greatest assets is his ability to make the right save at the right time. It might not seem like there was a crucial save to be made in a 3-0 game, but that's not the case. The save Brodeur made on Steve Rucchin right after New Jersey's second goal was a key. If the Ducks scored to make it 2-1 going into the third period, it might have been a different game.

What I was glad to see from Duck goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the way he pounded his stick after giving up the third goal. I think that shows his passion for the game. I'm not worried about him at all. I'd be more worried if he didn't show any emotion at all after giving up that goal to Jeff Friesen.

Friesen's having a great postseason and I'm happy for him. My former teammate in San Jose is using his speed, he's dumping the puck in and he's fighting through checks. After several trying seasons, he really grew this year.

It has got to be especially satisfying for Jeff to beat the Ducks, his former team. I know I always wanted to beat the team I left in the most desperate way.

The first time I faced the Kings as a member of the Sharks, we beat the Kings, 7-6, in overtime and I consider that one of the highlights of my career. I didn't even care that I let in six goals.

What the Ducks have to do now is stay positive. This series is certainly not over. They can win the next two games.

It's not about the system. It's not about the trap. The question is, do they have the passion to fight through the tight checking?

It's nice that they are going home for Games 3 and 4. I'm a bit of a believer in home-ice advantage. But I wouldn't want to rely only on that.

To have success, you have to earn success.

*

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.

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