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Monday, June 9, 2003
Updated: June 10, 2:32 PM ET
Brodeur again shows why he's an elite goalie

By EJ Hradek
ESPN The Magazine

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The goalie that won the Conn Smythe Trophy sat quietly -- head in hands -- in the corner of the visiting locker room. He had his green Stanley Cup finals hat pulled down hard over his teary eyes. His bushy playoff beard still was soaked in sweat.

The goalie that won the Stanley Cup strolled around the chaotic underbelly of the Continental Airlines Arena, still in full equipment, smiling for the cameras, puffing on a big cigar, swigging champagne from the bottle and carrying his lucky charm -- a "celebriduck" likeness of himself that he got from a friend just before the start of this year's playoffs.

That's how this Stanley Cup final series ended for the Mighty Ducks' dazzling playoff freshman Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who became just the fifth member of a losing team to win the Conn Smythe, and Devils postseason veteran Martin Brodeur, who added a third Cup to his already lengthy resume.

This series that was all about the goalies when it started, ended the same exact way, with a 3-0 Devils' home-ice victory. Brodeur's shutout was his third of the series, tying a Stanley Cup finals record (Clint Benedict, 1926; and Frank McCool, 1945).

During this championship run, Brodeur also established a record with seven shutouts. Still, Brodeur didn't get the individual honor that always seems to be just out of his grasp. In this case, he didn't much mind.

"I'm sure if I lost, it would have been a little harder on me," said Brodeur, who has 20 career playoff shutouts, just three behind Patrick Roy on the all-time list. "But, knowing that I have the Stanley Cup, I'm not worried about the Conn Smythe.

"It's well deserved for him," Brodeur continued. "He's the only reason -- well, I mean, there are some good players out there, too, but he's the big reason why the Mighty Ducks made it so far."

After collecting his thoughts and quickly shaving his beard, Giguere made it clear which trophy he would have rather won.

"I would give that one up to get the other one," said Giguere, who came back to earth in the final series (2.54 GAA, .910 save percentage) after a brilliant performance in the first three rounds (1.22 GAA. .960 save percentage). "It would have been much better to get the other one."

In the post-game handshake line, the two French-Canadian goalies embraced and exchanged a few words.

"I just congratulated him on a great playoff," Brodeur said. "He set a real high standard for himself. It's a standard that he's going to have to live up to for the rest of his career."

As for Giguere, he figures the new standard is Brodeur.

"He's probably the best in the game, since Patrick (Roy) retired," Giguere said. "I think he's the one taking over right now at being the best."

He's certainly the best at bouncing back from bad games. He was chased from Game 6 in Anaheim after giving up five goals. It was the sixth time during his career that he allowed five or more goals in a playoff game. In the games following those disasters, he's now 6-0 with three shutouts.

"Nothing bothers him," said Devils captain Scott Stevens. "If we have a bad game as a team or things don't go well for him, you know as a team that he'll be back in the next game.

"He's a guy you know will bounce back from anything that goes bad. He can get his mind on focus and get the job done.

"For a lot of goalies, it's difficult for them to get out of that funk," Stevens added. "Marty never has that problem."

Brodeur and Giguere both battled through some off-ice turmoil en route to their showdown in the final.

For Brodeur, it was his highly-publicized marital problems. He heard the catcalls in every visiting rink during these playoffs.

"Despite everything that was going on in his life, he was able to focus on his game," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "That couldn't have been easy to do."

For Giguere, he was worried about his mother, Gisele, who is battling Alzheimer's disease back home in Quebec.

"I'm pretty sad," Giguere explained. "My main reason to win the Stanley Cup was for my mom. She's been watching every game at home. She lives for that and she's not doing too well right now. I would have really liked to win that for her. It was in the back of my mind the whole time."

As Giguere walked from the podium, he left his Conn Smythe Trophy for someone else to carry. On another night, with a big Cup to go with it, he would have enjoyed the honor a whole lot more. On this night, though, that trophy went to Brodeur. And, in a goalie series, Brodeur earned it.

E.J. Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.