No More Mr. Nice Guy

Goalies and children have something in common: they’re best seen and not heard. Think about it. Who wants to listen to someone barking about how little help he’s getting from his defense and how much that puck hurts when it hits you? OK, so that complaint may have gone away with the advent of modern netminding equipment, but there’s still a code that says that at some level, members of the goaltenders union ought to be left to themselves.

Except when they break the code and speak out, as Jean-Sebastien Giguere did this week when he complained that a lot of his teammates have quit already and are more interested in the post-season Vegas trip than they are in trying to salvage a season which has been a disaster to this point.

When IH commented to him Wednesday that it is not typical of a goalie to be a veteran leader, Giguere responded, “You know, it depends on everybody’s personality. Yes, I’m a goalie, but I’m an outspoken type of guy, and if I see something I don’t like, I won’t be shy to voice my opinion. It hits me a little bit harder as a backup, you know, and it makes being a leader a little bit different. It’s a bit trickier. I feel like I work hard. I come to the rink and challenge myself every day, and if I have something to say, I won’t shy away.”

Funny enough, he said it on the front side of a two-game road trip that would take his team to his old stomping grounds of Southern California for back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday, starting in Anaheim. And when he did it, he knew what he was getting into, as he explained after the game Wednesday night.

“Whenever you speak up, you kind of expose yourself to criticism. You have to respond yourself, you can’t just not show up the next day, right? I’m just as much a part of the problem as anybody else, and I have to be part of the solution. It’s a team game, and we were facing and we’re still facing a huge challenge ahead of us. Being a young team, we have to start winning some games and having a winning mentality.”

Giguere’s making himself visible gives us a chance to do a little bit of retrospective on him, reminding ourselves of some of the moments he’s given NHL, and Ducks, fans before getting back to Wednesday’s game.

2003. The Ducks knock off the Red Wings in what was thought to be an impossible matchup. Then they go all the way to the finals. Giguere is so good that on one play against the Wings, the only thing in the crease was his skate blade, and he still manages to make a save. I can’t recall the details, but I know it was spectacular. He goes on to win the Conn Smythe trophy. That summer, he shaves off his playoff beard and gets married.

2007. Giguere takes his team to the Stanley Cup, playing 18 games. The others are played by Ilya Bryzgalov of Togliatti, Russia and lately of the Philadelphia Flyers. Why did Giggy miss some starts in the crucial post-season? Because his boy was born with eye problems, and the player was tending to personal matters.

2008. Brian Burke moves to Toronto to take the GM job of a struggling hockey team which plays there. Some people call them the “Maple Laughs.” He needs a netminder, since, after all, they haven’t had a good one since Mike Palmateer, and he retired in 1984. Sorry for any of those I have forgotten since then. What, you say there were none? Oh.

To return to the story—Burke moves north, and on January 31st, 2010, he plucks Giguere from Anaheim, where he had been supplanted as starter by Jonas Hiller. Giggy promptly records two shutouts, but is hurt the following November and ends up playing only 48 games with the Leafs and is signed by Colorado on free agent day, July 1, 2011. He has, to this point, played in 45 games for the Avalanche, including 13 this season. He has not played a post-season game since a single contest in 2009.

His latest game saw him in Anaheim to face the offensive power of the Ducks. They came out without testing him in period one, and Giguere’s team staked him to a lead in the first minute plus and never looked back.

The Avs got the better of the shots in period one, including a dangerous one that went off Hiller’s shoulder without him seeming to see it. The Avs, meanwhile, were crowding into a tight box in front of their netminder, as if to show the world that they stood with him, rather than holding his comments against him. One try, for instance, saw a Francois Beauchemin slapshot come from the point and hit the crowd in front, then bounce to Selanne. He tried to get off a shot but fell as he did so, and the shot sent harmlessly back to the front of the net. The rest of the night went like that, with Giguere standing in where he needed to, but Anaheim doing very little to threaten.

After the game, to a man, Colorado said that they had come out with the specific intention of showing Giguere that they could play. PA Parenteau, for instance, said, “We’ve been struggling lately, but we came out hard. We played a good game and blocked some shots. We showed that we wanted to win.” When asked specifically about Giguere, he said, “I thought Giggy played well, but we played pretty well in front of him too. We didn’t give very much to Perry, Ryan. Selanne scored a nice goal, but we played pretty strong in our own end.”

The Avs were up 3-0 before that Selanne goal, by the way, and that was added to with a fourth goal before the end of period two. No more scoring occurred. The Ducks changed from starter Hiller to alternate Fasth before period three.

In explaining what happened, Coach Boudreau took more away from his team than he gave to the opponents. “We didn’t compete. When we stink, we stink. When we’re good, we’re good. We’re good as a team, and we stink as a team. We stunk.” To that, he added, “That team was ready to play, and we thought we knew they were ready to play. We had no pushback for them at all today.” He later added that his players, facing a rest day Thursday, should have given it their all. Because they blew it, the rest day is off. The Ducks play LA Saturday.

Coach Sacco of Colorado said to IH, “The guys did really well in front of [Giguere]. Any time you can give a team like Anaheim 22 shots on goal, I’m not exactly sure how many chances but not as many as we have been giving up lately, says a lot for the guys, and when we needed big saves, he came up with them. It was a good effort for everybody across the board.”

Giguere seconded that. “We played well in front of me. Made my job much easier. We got a lot of blocked shots. Got the puck out of our own zone.”

He went on to put the win in perspective. “We haven’t won on the road for probably two months now. Tonight we beat an excellent team. We played the best game I’ve seen us play for a long time. It’s a good start for us. It’s only one game. What we’re looking for is a consecutive streak that we can keep going tomorrow.”

It makes you kind of wonder, in the end, how much a goalie can do. Giguere did all he needed to in stopping 21 of 22 shots for the win. His coach said of him, “Giggy played well tonight.” He added, “We did a lot of things the correct way; we were smart, we were diligent with the puck, and we got rewarded for it.”

Giguere summed up the declaration he made this week, and the response by his team on the ice. “Obviously, I was worried a little bit how they were gonna take it. Hopefully they were going to take it professionally and find a way to respond. Truthfully, I’m looking for a response that’s in the last nine games of the season, and not one game. This was a good start for us.”

Ducks Notes
Cam Fowler went out in the first period, playing just 4:35. Boudreau said after that “We’re just sticking with upper body right now” as an explanation. When asked what happened, he pulled the old, “I didn’t see it,” routine.

One more question: who won Giggy’s loft, and what are they doing with it now? Those who live in SoCal will get that, a reference to a contest the Ducks were running with a company trying to sell condos near the arena.

Avs Notes

I’ve been to about 300 NHL games, and I’ve never seen a more giddy scene as in the locker room after the Avs won Wednesday. Tape wads were being thrown, jokes tossed back and forth. It was like what Bantam players do, or maybe NHL players when they’re not worried about keeping to the code of silence. Come to think of it, it was genuine joy, and nice to see.

Please read my books, starting with Growing Up Hockey. You can follow me on twitter @growinguphockey, but I’d rather you spent time reading. Start with a Graham Greene novel.

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