Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Big-time performance from Brodeur



By STEPHEN EDELSON
Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

PHOTO GALLERY

Photos of Monday's Game 7
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After the first six games of the Stanley Cup Finals, the numbers on the statistic sheets were eerily similar. The New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur entered the final game of the season with a 1.72 goals-against-average in the postseason, compared to 1.56 for Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, with Brodeur posting six shutouts compared to five for his young adversary.

But ultimately, the only numbers that anyone was going to remember were those generated in Game 7.

When they handed out the Conn Smyth Trophy, symbolic of the Most Valuable Player during the entire playoffs, to the losing goalie Giguere, it drew a loud chorus of boos from the partisan Devils' crowd. Brodeur could have cared less. All he was doing was skating around the ice trying to get his hands on the Stanley Cup, the piece of hardware he really wanted.

Brodeur's night started with a nifty glove save on Steve Thomas early in the first period, and ended nearly three hours later when he became just the third goalie in NHL history to post a shutout in Game 7 of the Finals - and one of three to have posted three shutouts in the Finals. He finished with seven shutouts overall during this year's playoffs.

His third championship, however, may have been his most stringent test of all against Giguere, the league's hottest young netminder who appeared destined to streak through the playoffs in his first attempt. Giguere posted three straight shutouts to open the Western Conference finals, but it was Brodeur who pitched a pair of shutouts to open the Stanley Cup Finals, thus setting the tone.

Monday night, Brodeur turned in the type of performance in a big game that area hockey fans have come to expect from him, letting his defense do their thing in front of him and taking care of whatever shots got through on net.

"With the bunch of guys we had this season, it was an awesome performance by everybody," Brodeur said. "There was a lot of pressure, and coming through in Game 7, the greatest thing we could have accomplished."

It was only fitting that Brodeur should play such a key role in the outcome, serving as the co-foundation, along with Scott Stevens, of the most recent hockey dynasty. He gave up the double overtime goal to Stephane Matteau, with the New York Rangers going on to win their first Cup in 44 years in 1994.

Twelve months later it was Brodeur between the pipes when the Devils won their first Stanley Cup, and his run of success since then has branded him as one of the best big-game goalies in the history of the game. His much-replayed highlights are generally a staple on wrap-up shows this time of year, and as the scoreless minutes melted away Monday night and the pressure mounted, Brodeur was right at home, soaking up the atmosphere and thriving in it.




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