May 27th, 2003

Playoff Preview

D'Arcy McGrath


Anaheim (W7) vs. New Jersey (E2)
Mighty Ducks (42-29-10-1; 95 pts); Devils (46-20-10-6; 108 pts);
Season Series: 2-0 New Jersey

The Ducks and the Devils?

Who'd a thunk? Honestly?

It's the kind of final that makes a fellow seriously consider putting five dollars down in Vegas for Nashville and Philadelphia next year in the hopes that lightning can strike twice.

The Mighty Ducks made one major off-season trade, signed a very old, but productive center and then watched as the pieces fell into place behind a break out playoff performance by their goaltender.

Simple recipe to jot down, but almost impossible to duplicate.

It's easy to say you need a franchise goaltender, but quite another thing to go out and get one.

This year's final four goaltenders were all of French Canadian descent. Jean Sebastian Giguere in Anaheim will meet Martin Brodeur of New Jersey in the final, but the last two to drop were Manny Fernandez of Minnesota and Patrick Lalime of Ottawa.

On the way to the final we've seen almost a passing of the butter-fly guard with Patrick Roy getting tossed aside early and considering retirement, and Martin Brodeur assuming the mantle of senior French statesman. Giguere meanwhile seems to have assumed the jedi apprentice job so long held by Brodeur under Roy.

How fitting that the National Hockey League draft is just around the corner with another French franchise set to be drafted in the top five in Marc Andre Fleury.

Don't think for a second that this year's playoffs aren't weighing heavily on clubs that hold those top picks. How can you afford not to draft the kid based on the last two months of tournament play?

To this point I've been faced with handicapping the Ducks three times. In the first round I had them as fodder for the Cup Champ Wings. In the second round I had their glass slipper splintering to the Dallas Stars. I finally got it right in the third round by picking them to move on, but only when they came up against a similar dark horse story from Minnesota.

So what to do now?

All signs point to a Devils cup. They have an equally compelling goaltender, experience, savvy, coaching, you name it.

But I won't make the same mistake for the third time.

Giguere as a factor seems to out weigh all others combined, and because of that the story will continue.

Ducks in 6 games, a cup won on home ice with Emilio Estevez figured prominently in the parade through Disney.

Who needs a script when you can "wing" it?

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