The date was June 9, 2003. When the final horn sounded, the New Jersey Devils were Stanley Cup champions for the third time in franchise history, defeating the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, in Game 7. A classic sendoff for Ken Daneyko. A first Cup for Head Coach Pat Burns. For Daneyko, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Sergei Brylin, a third Cup as members of Jersey’s team. So too was the case for Martin Brodeur.
However, before the sweet sip from the chalice, there was a bit of a sour taste for Brodeur. It involved the awarding of the Conn Smythe Trophy to Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Ducks. A sore point for sure among Devils diehards.
Not to knock the brilliance of Giguere but to this day, eleven years later, it almost feels like Brodeur was being penalized for playing on the better team. That it was expected that Brodeur and company would do as they normally do in the playoffs, whereas the upstart Ducks made a run through a Western Conference that had only seen three dominant clubs (Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars) reach the Final from 1995 to 2002.
So, in retrospect, should Brodeur have been awarded the MVP or Giguere? Perhaps you’re one who believes Jamie Langenbrunner, Niedermayer or Jeff Friesen. Although those playoff high point totals (18) for Langenbrunner and Niedermayer were the lowest to lead the playoffs in scoring since the 1968-69 season. For our purposes though, I’ll take a look back at each goaltender and make a determination from there.
The Case For Giguere:
In 21 playoff contests, J.S. boasted a ledger of 15-6, posting a playoff best 697 saves, sporting the best goals against average of 1.62 and a top save percentage of .945. Giguere was second with five shutouts.
Three of those shutouts came during the Western Conference Finals, against the Marian Gaborik led Minnesota Wild. Giguere was flat out dominant, during that four-game series sweep. During the first three games, including a 2OT Game 1 victory, Giguere stopped all 98 shots he faced. In total, Giguere turned away 122 of 123 pucks sent his way, with only Andrew Brunette breaking through in Game 4.
Most impressively, in the first round, the Mighty Ducks became the first team since the 1952 Red Wings, who swept the defending champion Toronto Maple Leafs, to sweep the defending champ in the first round of the following year, with the Red Wings serving as the victims this time around. All four games were decided by a single goal and all four went to Anaheim. The series was book ended by a 3OT win in Game 1 and an OT victory to seal it in Game 4.
In the second round against the Stars, the Mighty Ducks prevailed in the first two games, the first a 5OT win and the second took just one OT. Giguere would post a 28-save shutout in Game 4 and the Mighty Ducks would take the series in six.
Anaheim went through the West, going 6-1 at home and 6-1 on the road.
During the Final, Anaheim was unblemished at home, including two OT victories, one of which was a 1-0 Game 4 shutout by Giguere.
The Case For Brodeur:
In 24 playoff outings, Marty boasted a ledger of 16-8, posting 581 saves, sporting a goals against average of 1.65, and a .934 save percentage. Brodeur lead all netminders with seven shutouts.
Three of those shutouts came on the biggest stage, the Stanley Cup Final, including the decisive Game 7. Along with throwing up blanks in Games 1, 2 & 7, Brodeur carried a shutout into OT of Game 4, before the Devils fell 1-0. There are those who will argue that a goaltender can only do so much when his team gets blanked but going head to head, Brodeur posted more wins, more shutouts and did both in the clincher.
In the Eastern Conference playoffs, New Jersey disposed of the Boston Bruins in five games, with Brodeur blanking the B’s twice, once in Game 3 at Boston and in the clincher at New Jersey in Game 5.
Round two saw the Devils upend the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games as well. Brodeur shutout Tampa in Game 1 and the Devils finished off the Lightning with a 2-1, 3OT victory in Game 5.
During the Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils faced the President’s Trophy winning Ottawa Senators. In Game 3, Brodeur posted a 24-save shutout, a 1-0 win for the Devils. Brodeur and New Jersey took the series in Game 7, winning 3-2 at Ottawa.
New Jersey went through the East, going 8-1 at home and 4-4 on the road.
Giguere’s save totals and stamina were outstanding, helping his club to two series sweeps and two series victories over clubs with 100 points apiece.
That being said, not only did Brodeur have more shutouts on the whole, he outplayed Giguere in the Final. The seven shutouts by Brodeur, were and are still a playoff record. Brodeur’s three shutouts against Anaheim in the Final, tied a playoff record for shutouts during a postseason series and like I mentioned above, Brodeur had a regulation shutout in Game 4 as well. All that and the Game 7 shutout for the Cup, should tell you all you need to know.
Between the regular season and the playoffs, Marty has amassed a total of 33,606 saves but on June 9, 2003, he was robbed big time. If the NHL can give back the Devils’ first round draft pick in 2014, I believe a do-over is in order for the Conn Smythe in 2003.