Friday, May 30
May 31, 2:37 PM ET
Giguere to mates: Bring your 'A' game
By Mike Heika
Special to ESPN.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A media hoard went in search of the Mighty Ducks' pulse on Friday afternoon, and they found it in goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
When teammate Paul Kariya was asked on the podium if he was worried that the Ducks might be seen as a fluke because of their seemingly lifeless performance so far in the Stanley Cup finals, Giguere took the opportunity to jump in and answer the question.
"We're not a fluke,'' Giguere said. "We're the most improved team in the NHL since the beginning of the season. Since Christmas, we are one of the best teams in the league. We've beat Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota by doing what we do, not by luck."
The problem is that under the hot media light of the playoffs, the Ducks have not done what they do. The problem is so far in the first two games, this has been one of the most lopsided finals ever. And that's why some might want to call the Mighty Ducks a fluke, might want to lump them in the class with the Carolina Hurricanes, who went from Eastern Conference champions to the 30th team in the league this season.
"We have to play better,'' defenseman Keith Carney said of his team getting shut out in the first two games of the series. "We have no choice right now. We have to come out and play our best game.''
If they don't, the series will almost surely be over sooner rather than later. If they don't, they will allow the doubters to question everything they have accomplished so far this season. But while the Ducks were bombarded with questions about heart and emotion and fire, few bit.
When asked if a veteran needed to stand up and pound his chest, Carney said: "It's been done, but behind the scenes."
When asked if the Ducks should have sent a message when they were down 3-0 in Game 2 by mixing it up, Kariya responded with a definitive no.
"That's not the kind of team we are," Kariya said. "And that's not why we've had success so far."
It's true, and it's why this dilemma of emotion is such a strange one for Anaheim. In truth, the Ducks have played with such control that they have looked emotionless in previous series. They always had the lead, they always played a passive style bent more on thinking and working than on hitting and grinding. So do they need to play with more emotion or less?
"What we need to do is play," Babcock said. "Let's play. Let's be the best we can be. The tough part for us, and we're not trying to take anything away from the Devils, but we haven't played. That part is the frustrating part.''
The Ducks are hoping getting home will be a big boost. The Ducks are hoping they have learned from the first two games. The Ducks are hoping they will turn it up a notch. But while most stayed away from the emotion issue, Giguere had no problem embracing the questions.
The man who broke his stick in frustration in Game 2 said his team definitely needed to come out with some swagger.
"They're not a better team than we are,'' Giguere said. "They're not up here and we're down here. We're right there with them. We are definitely able to play with these guys and beat them (but) everybody has to play. Come in tomorrow and play their game.''
Giguere was asked why he felt his team has lacked emotion so far in the series, and he said he didn't know.
"Maybe we think we don't deserve to win,'' he said. "This is not true, we deserve to win. We have to allow ourselves to be successful and, like I said, we have been working at this all year. There is only five games left, let's go at it and see what's going to happen. There is nothing else we can do. Bring your 'A' game, do what you have to do, make sure you bring it.''
All Kirsten Dunst jokes aside, that might be exactly what the boys from California need to do.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
Fortunately, it's almost game time, because the Mighty Ducks and Devils are running out of things to say. "I'd like to advise everybody that in the last 24 hours nothing has changed," said New Jersey coach Pat Burns as he approached the press conference podium. Neither coach is making any lineup changes for Game 3.
Burns, who is making his second Stanley Cup finals appearance, said he's been able to enjoy the experience. "We still have to stay focused and on top of things," he said. "I'm not out partying, not having a good time like that. That will come later."
In his first finals appearance, Ducks coach Mike Babcock is having a different experience with his team trailing 2-0 in the series.
"The interesting thing for me as a coach is that we've been (playing) the same way and have been having success, competing like crazy and being proud every night when we leave the rink about how hard we competed, win or not," he said. "Then suddenly we get here and that's not the case. That's disturbing."
Babcock has been receiving unsolicited advice about how to dig his team out of its hole.
"We've got people who've known us forever telling us what to do. What, did we suddenly forget?" he said, smiling. "There are lots of things people have been suggesting. What I've found is apparently we need more help this week than we did last week. But that's great people are trying to help you out. I don't know how they get our number, but I had some beauties from some fans today that are pulling for us like crazy, it was great. I listened carefully."
Besides having the advantage of a 2-0 lead, Burns also has a veteran team and he isn't overly conerned about reminding his team that nothing has been won yet.
"This team is so easy for that," he said. "It's a team that's been there. I really don't have to mention a whole lot of things. I check the pulse of the team. If I see that, I'll pop right up. But when you have a captain like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Patrick Elias, plus vertans like John Madden and Ken Daneyko, I don't have to say a whole lot."