Inside The NHL

April 20, 2003

Wings on the Brink
The performance of Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere has defending
champion Detroit one defeat from elimination

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 74 consecutive saves against the
defending champion Red Wings last week but did not once, as the
boys in the booth like to say, stand on his head. Giguere is a
positional goalie: square to shots, quick across his crease
and--in the opening week of the playoffs--the monarch of the
butterflyers. Through three games he did not make a signature
save for the Ducks, because his technique made most of his stops
look easy. Giguere was not hot, he was simply good.

"He doesn't have to make the spectacular saves because of his
good anticipation," says Detroit left wing Brendan Shanahan.
Giguere stopped 97 of 100 Red Wings shots as the upstart Ducks
won twice in Detroit; he made 63 saves in the 2-1 triple-overtime
opener, a record for goalies in their first playoff game. Then in
Game 3 on Monday night in Anaheim he shut down Detroit in a 2-1
win as the Mighty Ducks put the Red Wings on the brink of
elimination.

The spate of comparisons between Giguere and his idol, the
nonpareil Patrick Roy of the Avalanche, are as flawed as they are
favorable. The two men are both scientific netminders who have
been schooled by Francois Allaire, the Mighty Ducks' goalie
consultant who used to work with Roy during their days in
Montreal. But Giguere is not the head-bobbin',
goalpost-conversin' bundle of nerves that Roy, then 20, was when
he won the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1986. Giguere, who turns 26
next month, is a former first-round draft choice with two solid
NHL seasons behind him. He had an under-the-radar 2.13
goals-against average in 2001-02 for the dreadful Ducks and a
superb .920 save percentage this season, in which Anaheim earned
only one fewer point than Detroit over the second half. Says
Ducks defenseman Keith Carney, "He's our backbone."

The Red Wings showed their backbone last spring in Round 1,
winning four straight after dropping the first two at home to
Vancouver, but this year there are some differences: Giguere is
not the sometimes shaky Dan Cloutier of the Canucks, and Curtis
Joseph is not Dominik Hasek in the Detroit net. Joseph looked
awkward in Game 2, beaten by Stanislav Chistov for the first goal
on an angle so tough it could have baffled Euclid. He also gave
up a preventable winning goal to Steve Thomas with 4:14 left in
Anaheim's 3-2 victory. If the Red Wings are to make another
spirited first-round comeback, Joseph may have to play more like
Giguere.

Devils' Defensive Stopper
Madden Is the Main Man

Goalie Martin Brodeur was his usual spectacular self as the
Devils took a 3-0 series lead against the Bruins with a 3-0
victory on Sunday in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, but
checking center John Madden deserved much of the credit. Working
on a line with wingers Jay Pandolfo and Turner Stevenson, Madden
was assigned to shadow high-scoring center Joe Thornton
throughout the series. Whenever Thornton, who led Boston forwards
in average ice time through the first three games (21:34), took a
shift, the Madden-Pandolfo-Stevenson trio jumped over the boards
like a pack of hunting dogs. "It's physically and mentally
exhausting," Madden said after Game 2.

Despite giving away five inches and 30 pounds to the 6'4",
220-pound Thornton, Madden shut down one of the NHL's most
skilled and physical forwards. Through three games Thornton,
whose 101 points were third in the league during the regular
season, had no goals and just two assists. In addition to
stopping Thornton, Madden had a goal and four assists.

Madden thwarted Thornton in part by not allowing him to set up
behind the New Jersey net, one of his favorite areas to operate.
Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, the usual defensive pairing
behind the Madden line, added a physical presence--Stevens, in
fact, changed the momentum of Game 2 when he leveled Thornton
late in the first period. If the Devils finish off Boston, Madden
and his cohorts will be expected to get a similar assignment for
Round 2. --Stephen Cannella

Laraque-Ott Exchange
Sticks and Stones ...

Before a first-period face-off in Game 1 of the Stars-Oilers
series on April 9, Dallas fourth-line rookie pest Steve Ott
leaned in against Edmonton enforcer Georges Laraque and elbowed
him in the ribs. "Georges," the 6-foot, 185-pound Ott said, "it's
going to be a long night for you." The 6'3", 245-pound Laraque,
who is the NHL's top heavyweight, was amused. "What can you do,"
Laraque replied, "to make it a long night for me?"

In the third period, after Laraque's linemate Shawn Horcoff
scored the eventual game-winner in a 2-1 victory with Ott on the
ice, Laraque skated by Ott and said, "You won't even play next
game. You're a minus player."

At a morning practice before Game 2 last Friday, Laraque found
out that Ott, indeed, would be scratched for that night's match.
Laraque laughed heartily and said to a reporter, "Do me a favor.
Tell [Ott], 'Georges says it's going to be a long night for you.'"

Villain Returns to Ottawa
Yashin Bashing Is in Season

Midway through the second period of Game 2 between the Senators
and the Islanders last Saturday night in Ottawa, fans waving a
KEEP BASHIN' YASHIN sign written in bloodred block letters drew a
cheer from the crowd. The only thing that the Ottawa faithful
wanted to see more than a Senators win to square the series was
New York center Alexei Yashin get shut down--and crunched.

The former Ottawa captain, whose eight years with the Senators
were punctuated by acrimony, left with a reputation as a selfish
player. In June 2001, Yashin was dealt to New York for Zdeno
Chara and a first-round draft pick, and last season Yashin
starred for the Islanders. This year his play fell off
dramatically, and he was demoted to the fourth line for much of
the second half.

In Game 1 of the series, the No. 1-seeded Senators seemed intent
on physically punishing Yashin, knocking his helmet off twice and
giving him a fat lip. In doing so they knocked themselves off
their game and were upset 3-0. To make matters worse, Yashin
bounced back from each pounding and even scored a goal.

It is clear that Yashin holds a key to this series. In Game 2,
despite the fans' urging, the Senators backed off the Yashin
bashing and returned to their crisp, accurate passes and solid
defense, dominating the Islanders in a 3-0 victory. Along the way
Ottawa held Yashin to three shots. Yashin broke loose in Game 3
on Monday night in New York with two points, but the Senators
took a 2-1 series lead with a 3-2 double-OT win. Regardless, one
thing is certain: Yashin will be back in Ottawa for Game 5 on
Thursday night, and the reception will be rude. --Andrea Woo

COLOR PHOTO: TOM PIDGEON/GETTY IMAGES/NHLI A hidden gem in goal, Giguere has opened eyes with his record-setting postseason play. COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Madden (above) has not only dogged Thornton but also contributedoffensively. COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Laraque and Ott collided often in Game 1, but the Oilers enforcergot the last laugh.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)