Giguere: Getting ready to run?

Miikka Kiprusoff's close wins have him at the top of the rankings and Calgary in the playoff race.

Originally Published: December 16, 2003
By Darren Pang | Special to

It's that time of year to earnestly ask: Will Jean-Sebastien Giguere find his form and lead the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to a playoff berth? After their shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, the Ducks are at 33 points with six points (and the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes) between them and the Dallas Stars, who occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
For Giguere, the 31 saves in Tampa were significant, as he tries to find consistency on a night-in and night-out basis. With two shutouts in his last four games, he's definitely built a foundation, but there is no room for a setback, which leads to some enormous pressure.

It's nice to see the Ducks honor former goalie Guy Hebert, who will be the first player added to their "Wall of Fame" prior to their game against Columbus on Jan. 11. Hebert was a consummate pro and consistent player for 424 games in a Ducks uniform, 27 of them shutouts, and served countless hours in the community, something he still does. Great stuff for a Division III goalie who most people counted out. Give former St. Louis Blues/Peoria Rivermen goalie coach Wayne Thomas credit for yet another goalie he helped develop and get to a high and consistent level.

  • Speaking of mini-comebacks, it was good to see Felix Potvin get a win on Monday. Boy did he need that! He made 28 saves and was named third star in the 3-1 win vs. the Washington Capitals. Throughout his career, he has always drifted away for weeks at a time and then has gone on a two-month roll. This may be the beginning.

  • In Vancouver, Canucks management is really high on Alex Auld, the current backup to Dan Cloutier while Johan Hedberg is out. He is a big kid. He looked good in two games before falling apart against Edmonton, losing 6-2 and appearing ... well, small. We'll keep an eye on his progress to see if he has the ability to be their goalie of the future.

  • In Philly, Jeff Hackett has lost his last five starts (3.58 GAA and .875 save percentage). But fortunately, Robert Esche is back from a groin injury and looked sharp in Monday's 2-2 tie at Dallas and Ken Hitchcock's return to the city where he won a Stanley Cup in 1999.

  • St. Louis will be without Chris Osgood for an undetermined amount of time. He left Monday night's game at Columbus after one of his defensemen, Bryce Salvadore, fired a puck off the back of his leg, likely catching a nerve and forcing Brent Johnson in the twine. Osgood has been great and playing with calmness and confidence.

  • It has been a very difficult year in Chicago but this team never quits as it showed on ESPN2 Sunday by beating Detroit 3-0. Goalie Michael Leighton has two shutouts in his last four starts. With Jocelyn Thibault out, he has shown he has the upside to be a top goalie in this league.

    Great move by the Hawks to put two great pictures of the late Keith Magnuson and his No. 3 on the boards, one at the Hawks bench and the other directly across so the players can see what heart and desire is all about.

    The top five for this week:


    5. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks

    Evgeni Nabokov
    5 GP, 3-1-1, 1.75 GAA, .934 save percentage
    The Sharks continue to play good, solid hockey at both ends of the ice. Nabby started off losing 3-2 in Detroit in OT, making 26 saves. But keep in mind, Joe Louis Arena has been a brutal building for the Sharks to play in; they have won just four games there, including the playoffs. Nabby then won 2-1 in back-to-back, home-and-home games against Anaheim, making 45 saves combined, before beating the Kings 5-0 and then tying them 4-4.

    4. Ed Belfour, Toronto Maple Leafs

    Ed Belfour
    5 GP, 3-1-1, 2.47 GAA, .913 save percentage
    He had won four in a row before losing 3-1 against the Islanders and then tying Florida 4-4 (34 saves). The Leafs are fun to watch this season and Belfour gives them a chance every game. He beat the Lightning 3-0 (21 saves) and Montreal 4-2, before stifling the Panthers 5-2. He beat the Islanders 6-5 in OT in a relief stint.

    3. Garth Snow, New York Islanders

    Garth Snow
    5 GP, 5-0-0, 1.75 GAA, .937 save percentage
    The big guy has put together an impressive string of five wins, including a 3-1 victory against the Devils on Monday night (28 saves, second star). He has beaten tough teams in the Eastern Conference, handing Philly a 4-2 loss, Toronto a 3-1 loss and the Devils (again) a 4-3 OT loss.

    2. Marty Turco, Dallas Stars

    Marty Turco
    5 GP, 4-0-1, 1.58 GAA, .933 save percentage
    After watching the Flyers-Stars game on Monday, it's clear that Turco is back. He has that swagger again. He has been giving the glove and taking it away, something we saw so often last year. The Stars have climbed back into the playoff picture. Turco put together a great string of games since Dec. 20, when he beat Tampa Bay 2-1 and Carolina 3-1, both on the road before a 2-1 win against Nashville and a 4-3 win at Columbus.

    1. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames

    Miikka Kiprusoff
    5 GP, 3-1-1, 1.38 GAA, .949 save percentage
    He has won all the close games, which is the most you could ask for. He has been great down low and has shown leadership and calmness when the game is on the line. What a pickup for coach/GM Darryl Sutter. In his 18 starts, he has won a 2-1 game a staggering six times so far. In his last five games, he has given up just seven goals. The key to this run is the victories against rival Edmonton in a home-and-home series. Sunday night in Edmonton, he beat the Oilers 2-1, making 20 big saves and earning the first star. On Dec. 23 at home, he beat them 2-1, making 30 bigger saves. He lost 2-0 the day after Christmas against Vancouver (29 saves). Sutter has the 92 points that the Oilers had last season in mind for his Flames if they are to make the playoffs. Right now they are in fifth place in the West with 43 points and are on pace for 103.

    Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN. His goalie rankings appear every other week in Net Effect.

    Darren Pang joined ESPN2 as an NHL game analyst in September 1993. He also works select ESPN National Hockey Night playoff contests and ABC Sports' telecasts. Pang played for the Blackhawks and was named to the All-Rookie team in 1987.