Two years ago in the Stanley Cup finals, Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils took on the master, Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche, in a matchup of elite French-Canadian goaltenders won by Roy.
This spring, Roy is contemplating retirement, Brodeur is considered the NHL’s top goalie and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Mighty Ducks is the challenger entering the championship series starting Tuesday night at East Rutherford, N.J.
“There will be a lot of pressure on him, a lot of pressure on me because I think people expect a lot of things,” Brodeur, 31, said late Friday after the Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. “But that’s part of what we do, and we’re definitely going to try to hold my title here.”
Is a new era dawning?
“Definitely,” said Brodeur, whose Devils have reached the Stanley Cup finals for the fourth time in nine seasons after winning championships in 1995 and 2000. “When I look around me and there’s not too many guys that are older than me anymore, it kind of hits you a little bit.
“But it’s a new wave of goalies out there that is doing real well.... For me, it’s been 10 years. It’s been a great ride and hopefully it will continue for a lot more. But definitely young bucks are coming up and doing real well.”
Of Giguere, Brodeur said: “He’s been playing awesome. I think technically he’s as good as anybody out there and he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Veteran center Joe Nieuwendyk of the Devils played only 1 minute 49 seconds in the decisive game against the Senators because of an undisclosed injury suffered at the end of Game 6. Coach Pat Burns said it was a bruised hip, but others have speculated that it’s a knee or back injury.
“In a couple of days he will be fine,” Burns said of the 36-year-old Nieuwendyk. “A couple of days of treatment, he will be back and he will be going.”
Said Nieuwendyk, who had tears in his eyes during the first intermission: “I knew in my heart I wasn’t near 100%. It got progressively worse in the warmup and then the first few shifts I had difficulty.
“You don’t get these opportunities a lot in your career,” added Nieuwendyk, who will play in the finals for the fourth time after winning the Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and the Dallas Stars in 1999. “You treasure these moments. I’m very thankful they’ve given me a chance to go to the finals.”
Burns has coached in 137 playoff games, second-most among coaches who have not won the Stanley Cup. Pat Quinn of the Toronto Maple Leafs has coached in 170 playoff games without winning a championship.
In their last trip to the finals, two years ago, the Devils won three of the first five games against the Avalanche and led in Game 6 at New Jersey, 3-2, before losing the series.