- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Cinderella Mighty Ducks of Anaheim want to dance with Lord Stanley's Cup, they're going to have to steal it. More specifically, Jean-Sebastien Giguere is going to have to pull a "Sopranos"-type heist in New Jersey on Monday night.
The Ducks' goalie -- Conn Smythe-brilliant in the first three playoff rounds against the Wings, Stars and Wild -- has been Pete Peeters-average against the Devils in this topsy-turvy Stanley Cup final. In the first five games, Giguere posted a pedestrian 2.54 goals-against average and a good, but not great, save percentage of .912.
Hey, those numbers won't get him invited back to see Jay Leno.
On Monday, though, if the Ducks want the Cup to fly west to California, Giguere had better remember what got him to "The Tonight Show" set. He's going to have to be slam-the-door, brick-wall, lights-out good.
"I've been dreaming about something like this since I was 5 years old," said Giguere, after the Ducks' season-saving 5-2 win in Game 6 at the Arrowhead Pond. "Really, it's still a dream to me."
That dream becomes a nightmare if Giguere doesn't bring his "A" game to the Meadowlands.
In Game 6, Giguere was merely good enough. The Ducks came out with a lot of quack and pushed the Devils onto their heels. Like in Game 5, the Ducks scored an early goal to take the lead. And, like in Game 5, the Devils came charging back with a hard-driving shift from their fourth line of center Pascal Rheaume, left wing Sergei Brylin and right wing Turner Stevenson.
But, unlike in Game 5, Giguere kept them from answering back with a tying goal.
"I wasn't going to get distracted," said Giguere, talking about the moments after Steve Rucchin's opening goal. "I didn't want them to do what they did the last game."
They didn't because Giguere got enough of a Stevenson shot to direct the puck off the post, rather than into the net. Buoyed by the save, the Ducks got back to the attack. They scored twice more in the first period to grab a 3-0 lead and ensure one more trip back to New Jersey.
For that final cross-country journey to be successful for Anaheim, though, Giguere will have to be much more than good. The Devils have been great on home ice during this postseason, going 11-1 -- the one loss coming in overtime. That record includes three impressive wins over the Ducks, outscoring them 12-3.
"We've gone there and gotten spanked three times," Ducks coach Mike Babcock said. "We can't play any worse than we've played there. We've got to be due for a good one."
Maybe. But, that good one -- any good one -- must start with Giguere, who hasn't been able to find the road magic in New Jersey that he sprinkled in Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota. At the Continental Airlines Arena, the Devils have roasted Giguere to his stick-breaking end.
On Monday, the Devils will come in waves. And, they might come with Joe Nieuwendyk, who looked ready to play during the Game 6 pregame skate but did not.
Confident from the Game 6 victory, Giguere says he's up to the task.
"I'm not going to play the other goalie, and I'm not going to play the scoreboard," Giguere said. "I'm just gonna play it one shot -- one save -- at a time."
Giguere brings no NHL Game 7 track record into the showdown. His counterpart, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, has played in seven Game 7s, including a 3-2 Game 7 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre in the Eastern Conference final last month. Brodeur, however, doesn't think the experience will mean much Monday.
"Those guys keep surprising," Brodeur said of the Ducks. "I thought we could use our experience to wrap this up in Game 6. But we didn't react too well, and they took advantage of it.
"It's been a homer series so far," he said. "But you never know what is going to happen in a Game 7. You rely on a bounce here and there, not just to win the series, but to win it all."
If Giguere can't draw on any NHL Game 7 experience, he can at least think back to his days with Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"I played a couple Game 7s in junior," said Giguere. "I know I played one against Shawinigan. They were a big favorite and we were on the road."
"I remember I made a lot of saves and we won the game," Giguere said.
Exactly. If he wants this Stanley Cup, the Ducks' masked man needs to steal it.