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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

Giguere wins Conn Smythe

Globe and Mail Update
Monday, June 9, 2003

East Rutherford, N.J. — It may, in time, come to mean something to Anaheim Mighty Ducks' goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

But now? Moments after the Ducks lost a 3-0 decision to the New Jersey Devils in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final, winning the consolation prize - the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff's most valuable player - proved to be of little consequence.

"This is not the one you want," said Giguere. "You want to win the big silver one. This is just icing on the cake."

Giguere was in tears immediately after the game, but composed himself by the time he accepted the trophy from National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman. As Giguere passed through the line, shaking hands with the Devils, Tommy Albelin, a former teammate with the Calgary Flames, consoled him and congratulated him.

The pro-Devils' fans booed the verdict, but a handful of New Jersey players applauded to show their appreciation of Giguere's playoff efforts.

Giguere, the player primarily responsible for getting the Ducks to the Stanley Cup final, was outplayed in the decisive game by his opposite number in the Devils' goal, Martin Brodeur.

"It's tough to lose like that," said Giguere, who had already shaved off his playoff beard by the time he appeared for the post-game press conference. "You never know when the next chance is going to come at you."

Brodeur won the third Stanley Cup of his career by playing a flawless game in the Devils' goal. It was the typical Devils' effort - the team played solid defensively in front of him, but when necessary, Brodeur made the important saves.

New Jersey set a record by winning 12 games on home ice in the playoffs.

"It was awesome," said Brodeur, afterwards. "We feel really at ease, playing in our own building. It's the only reason we won the Stanley Cup — because we were so dominant in our own building."

The last player to win the Conn Smythe on a losing team was the Philadlephia Flyers' Ron Hextall in 1987. Hextall won the award because his overmatched team pushed the dynasty-in-the-making Edmonton Oilers to seven games before falling 3-1 in the decisive game.

Only four other players had ever won the Conn Smythe Trophy playing for the losing team: Roger Crozier (Detroit, 1966), Glenn Hall (St. Louis, 1968), Reg Leach (Philadelphia, 1976) and Hextall.

Giguere appeared rattled after giving up second-period goals to the Devils' Michael Rupp and Jeff Friesen in traffic. Giguere almost surrendered a third goal in the period to Pascal Rheaume, but defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh fished the puck off the goal line and out of harm's way before the Devils' Turner Stevenson - who had his stick raised, as if to celebrate a goal - could push it over the line.

Giguere became the 10th different goaltender to win the Conn Smythe and the first since Patrick Roy did so two years ago. Giguere broke the playoff record set by Roy in 1993 for consecutive overtime minutes without surrendering a goal (168:27).

"The opportunity to win Game 7 is the opportunity of a lifetime and you want to make good on it," said Ducks' coach Mike Babcock. "When you don't, the Conn Smythe is something he should be very proud of. He battled hard to earn the right to hoist that trophy. yet right now, it's not what he's looking for."

"It's not a question of us not wanting it," said Giguere, "it's just a question of them playing very well. In the end, we just couldn't do it."

Giguere posted a 15-6 playoff record, a 1.62 goals-against average and a startling save percentage of .945.

Giguere joined the Mighty Ducks in the summer of 2000, in a trade with Calgary for a second-round draft choice, just before the NHL's final expansion draft, largely on the recommendation of goalie coach Francois Allaire.

Giguere gradually refined his technique, under Allaire's watchful eye, and improved, little by little. A year ago, on a Ducks' team which missed the playoffs, he took the No. 1 job away from Steve Shields in the second half, by posting a 2.11 goals-against average and a .920 save-percentage.

"Anybody who's been watching him for two years knows how good he is," said Babcock. "There's no surprise in that." ROBTv Workopolis