Things are working out well for Grant Marshall and his new team.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 4, 2003
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Grant Marshall loves this stuff.
Yeah, yeah, the Devils have blown a two games to none lead in the Stanley Cup final and are tied at 2 with the Mighty Ducks going into Thursday's Game 5. But the New Jersey right wing isn't about to complain, especially when he considers the alternative.
"I'm very fortunate," Marshall said. "I could have been golfing by April 10."
That was the day after the Blue Jackets ended their season. It was the day Marshall's second season began.
The native of Mississauga, Ontario, was acquired by the Devils at the trade deadline for a conditional 2004 draft choice. It was a steal. His five goals in 21 playoff games are more than half the nine goals he scored in 76 games in the regular season.
And how about this for a storyline: Marshall never had scored in the postseason. And his 65-game drought, which ended April 26 against the Lightning in the East semifinals, was a league record.
Tampa Bay fans probably remember Marshall like they remember a toothache. He scored three times against the Lightning, including the series-clincher in the third overtime of Game 5.
"It was an unbelievable feeling," he said. "To be able to win a series for your team and get the final goal in the clincher, I'd say is every kid's dream. I was fortunate to do it."
Marshall, who will turn 30 on Monday, when a potential Game 7 would be played at New Jersey's Continental Airlines Arena, isn't sure what to make of the unexpected, but welcome, turn of events.
"I don't know," he said. "I'd like to think I'm playing fairly similar. There is no question I'm playing more. It's the right fit, I guess. I'm just working hard and getting a lot of bounces that are going my way."
"Sometimes players fall into positions with teams, that things work out better than with others," Devils coach Pat Burns said. "They're not asked to be the player that has to do everything. I think with Grant, he falls into place with the team, and the things he does well coincide with the way we play."
The 6-foot-1, 196-pound Marshall does the dirty work to protect his smaller linemates, center Scott Gomez and Patrik Elias.
He hits, he forechecks, he mucks it up in the corner. He has a shingle in front of the net, where he ties up defensemen and gets in position to score or create a screen.
"If there were three assists given on goals, Grant would have a lot of assists," Burns said. "He goes to the net hard."
"I want to be one of those guys who can help out and come up with the big play and do whatever during a game," said Marshall, who has two assists and is plus-3. "If it's a big play or a dump-in, I want to be part of it."
Marshall speaks of the game the way he plays, with passion. Part of that is because the game was nearly taken from him while playing for Ottawa in the OHL.
Against Sudbury during the 1990-91 season, Marshall was hit from behind, hit the boards and broke his neck.
Marshall said he was paralyzed for "a few minutes" on the ice. He said surgery repaired three fractured vertebra, and for more than three months he wore a metal halo with screws drilled into his skull to hold his head steady while the injury healed.
Marshall was cleared to play that spring. In his first game back, he took a run at Oshawa star Eric Lindros.
"I figured if I was going to play this game, I wanted to know how I would feel," Marshall said. "I didn't want to go the whole summer thinking, "Can I play this game or can't I?' What better guy to go at than Lindros. He's a big guy. If I hit him and come out of it, I'll be all right."
"I did a 180-degree face plant, so it wasn't the most exciting time," he said. "But it didn't hurt me, so I knew I would be okay. The rest, as they say, is history."
One with a brand new chapter on scoring in the playoffs.