ESPN Network:ESPN | | | | ABCSports | ESPN Radio | EXPN | Page 2 | Insider | Shop | Fantasy
vw espn espn vw playoffs espn
espn.comscoreboardschedulemessage boardhistoryvideogalleryNHL on

Monday, June 9

Updated: June 10, 11:32 AM ET

Devils win with what they do best: Defense

ESPN's hockey analysts break down Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the New Jersey Devils:

Barry Melrose
The Devils were the better club right from the start. They played a great first period and could easily have been up one or two goals, but Jean-Sebastien Giguere made some good saves. But the bottom line is the Devils played Devils hockey. They got a lead, which is a killer when you're a team that's trying to catch the Devils. They go into that trap, they force you to do things you don't normally do and bang -- instead of leading 1-0 they're leading 2-0 and the game is over. Martin Brodeur didn't have a lot of work, but he made some key saves early when the game was still on the line. We're going to have a debate about whether or not Brodeur deserved the Conn Smythe, but that's what sports is all about. But the best team won. The Ducks are a great story, but the Devils have been amazing. They went into Ottawa and won Game 7, then they won Game 5, lost Game 6, and came in here and played another great Game 7 after all the travel. They lost Bobby Holik over the summer and everyone thought they were done, but all that happened is they became a better defensive team. Five guys have won three Cups and there is a lot of leadership in that dressing room.

For the Ducks, this is a positive. Now they know that they're winners. They know what it takes. They made some good deals and they'll make some more this summer. They'll get better. They have the goaltender now to build around. They have some good young players. The veteran leadership is proven and now they know what to expect, though it's going to be hard to get back to the finals next year. But they know that they can, they've done it before, and that's something they can use.

Bill Clement
The Devils were machine-like good. They played smart, they played hard, and they played big-game mentality hockey. They played absolutely to their potential and they played their style. They were not even close to being rattled at any point in the game. They didn't look like they were afraid to lose at any point during the game, which is always a hallmark of a team that is going to win. Their defensive presence was just overwhelming. There was nothing Anaheim could do to get any kind of sustained attack going and when Martin Brodeur had to make a save, he did.

The Mighty Ducks looked really good in the first period. They were stable, and it looked like this could be a real horse race into overtime. But in the final analysis, the Devils just ended up with more guys that really felt they deserved to win. The great story is Mike Rupp. I don't know where he's going to go from here. He gets his first Stanley Cup playoff game in Game 4 of the finals and then he gets a goal and two assists and the Cup winner in Game 7. What an incredible story for Michael Rupp. He'll be on this team next year. There will certainly be a spot on the roster for him. That line of Rupp, Jeff Friesen and Jamie Langenbrunner was easily the best line on the ice tonight, from the very first tip. From game to game, a coach doesn't know who that line is going to be that takes over, or who that center is going to be, you just hope that one of your lines ends up being the dominant line in the game, and it was the Rupp line tonight.

Darren Pang
This didn't really materialize into the goaltending duel I thought it was going to be. New Jersey deserves a lot of credit -- their game plan was to get bodies in front of Jean-Sebastien Giguere like they did in Games 1, 2, and 5 here, and they did that early on. Even when they didn't score early, they established themselves down low. It was just a matter of time. Anaheim was collapsing down low and all there was in front of Giguere was white jerseys. He'd make a save and there was a white jersey. Traffic in front, white jerseys. But at the other end of the ice, on every save that Martin Brodeur made, there was a white jersey. On every save he made, his defensemen were right there to clear the rebound. The Devils did a great job defensively in front of Brodeur, and all he had to do was make the first save.

The first goal, if you go by the rulebook, could have been disallowed. Jamie Langenbrunner came in from the side of the net and hit Giguere's hand, and you're not allowed to do that. That being said, Giguere did still have time to get his stick back in there, so nobody is going to whine for him. He got set and his stick was not in front of him, which was very surprising. I think that you can attribute the pucks that were sneaking under him to fatigue. Usually, he's down low and stopping those. The first goal was a deflection. On one of the goals by Jeff Friesen, Giguere had no chance at all. He was possibly a bit too far to his right with the glove side open, but when there is a battle in front of the net, you expect your defenseman to tie up the stick, and Ruslan Salei did not do that. Fundamentally, there were some defensive issues in front of him.

The Conn Smythe is a very bittersweet thing for Giguere. He brought it off the ice immediately. He seems to me to have a lot of Patrick Roy in him, where winning individual awards doesn't matter and winning the Stanley Cup is all that does. But it shows how valuable he was to his team. Without him, they don't get through the first period against Detroit, let alone the series. He established a number of personal records along the way, shutout streaks, save records, over 200 minutes without a goal, so he was very worthy of that trophy.

Brian Engblom
The Ducks got a little bit locked up out there. This was a little bit overwhelming for them. They tried to stick to the plan, but when they went down the one goal they lost their momentum. It's hard to deal with those nerves and that emotion and still play a quiet, patient game. It became really difficult for the Ducks, and then New Jersey just clamped down and played with the iron fist that we've seen so many times. Anaheim tried and they just couldn't find a way to generate anything. At times, they were too careful, but it's easy for us to say that, especially when you know they're trying like hell out there. They just couldn't find a way to break through. They got locked up. Anxiety kicked in. As the seconds ticked away, you could see the anxiety level rising and rising. It goes to your legs and seizes up your creativity. But you have to give credit to New Jersey. They got back to as good a New Jersey defensive style that you'll ever see from them.

The Ducks are regrouping mentally right now, knowing that they made some great strides forward and they were just so close. We've seen in history that great teams have had to lose before they've won. The Edmonton Oilers did it. The New York Islanders did it. You have to go through stages, and the Ducks made a huge leap forward here and came up just a little bit short. You can't come any closer than this. They may feel a little bit like they blew it. When you get a chance to play anybody, anywhere, even when people think you're overmatched and you have a chance to play a one-game shot to win it all, part of you will always feel like you blew it. But you put it all out there and leave everything on the ice and whatever happens, happens. That's the bad part about a one-game, winner-take-all Game 7.

Ray Ferraro
New Jersey was perfect. I don't know that you could play a better Game 7 than New Jersey played. Anaheim just wasn't able to penetrate. Scott Niedermayer was fantastic. He handled the puck well. Anytime there was any pressure he was able to skate it out of the zone. He's so underrated as a complete player. He's had a very good playoffs. He doesn't get a lot of ink, but he flies right in under the radar.

Anaheim is crushed right now. They got this far and they weren't able to finish it out. Right now, they don't feel like they accomplished what they set out to accomplish. But they should be very proud. They had an unbelievable year to get to the playoffs, they had a terrific playoff and they only fell one game short. The players will forever be disappointed, but as an organization, this is a real positive.

Playoff History

New Jersey

Playoff History

Series Index



null  Rupp's Arena Of Dreams
The V Show: Devils RW Mike Rupp tells Bob Valvano about his journey from afterthought to key figure in winning the Stanley Cup.
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story
Daily email home