John Madden has played well on offense and defense to get New Jersey within one victory of its third title.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 7, 2003
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Ask John Madden about winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 as a Devils rookie, and he seems almost ashamed to say the experience is "like a blur."
Specific games, dramatic moments, high points, lows, Madden said there is not much from the six-game victory against the Stars from which he can draw. Except this:
"It's one of those things," he said Friday. "You have that feeling, and you want to get it back."
With a 3-2 lead against the Mighty Ducks in the best-of-seven Cup final, the Devils can do that tonight in Game 6 at Arrowhead Pond. If it happens, and Madden was clear he is not making any predictions, he said a second title (and New Jersey's third in nine years) will mean more than his first.
"A lot more," he said. "One of the reasons it's so special is because it is so hard to get." Which is why Madden might stand up in the locker room and speak to his teammates before the game. Not that he will tell them anything new.
"But you can always say something that might heighten their attention," the center said, "get their focus and make them a better hockey player."
And if that doesn't work, they can watch Madden play.
More than any Devils player, the Barrie, Ontario, native has become the face of the Devils.
Martin Brodeur is the marquee name and the league's best goaltender. But Madden, 30, has mastered the gritty, grinding, defensive style that put New Jersey on the map. And the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the league's top defensive forward.
He also is as comfortable on the power play as the penalty kill, and his 15 points on six goals and nine assists are third on the team in the postseason.
A leader by example? Madden's left cheek was gashed by a skate 4:34 into Game 5 while he was buried at the bottom of a scrum he instigated by charging Ducks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh.
Madden bled significantly as he skated off the ice. He was back before the end of the period, the 2-inch wound closed by 16 stitches, his eye puffy and discolored, but his feisty game intact.
"You feed off anybody like that," left wing Jay Pandolfo said. "Anything he does, we'll take notice of."
"He's a warrior," right wing Grant Marshall said. "He's one of the key guys who plays hard every night. He brings it every night."
Lightning fans will remember Madden as the player who helped shut down Vinny Lecavalier during the East semifinals. But Madden also put the clamps on Boston's Joe Thornton in the quarterfinals, and he is doing the same to Anaheim's Paul Kariya.
Anaheim's captain has one assist and six shots on goal for the series.
"That's been a team goal," Madden said of stopping Kariya. "When he's in certain areas of the ice, we take care of him there or a defenseman picks him up."
Madden said that kind of work is more gratifying than scoring because it is what he trained for. He said he sculpted his game to fit what he believed the Devils lacked.
Madden's speed makes his forecheck effective. His tenacity takes away time and space from opponents and forces them into hasty decisions.
His experience makes him a respected locker room speaker. Madden was there in 2001 when the Devils led the Avalanche 3-2 but lost Game 6 in New Jersey and Game 7 in Colorado.
"Just try not to let that happen again," Madden said. "We have an opportunity to win the series and win the Cup. It will be tough to do against a team with their backs against the wall and in their own building."
Madden said he expects a low-scoring game, so the Devils must take the body, as they did in Game 5, to create room for the scorers.
"Mistakes can cost you big-time," he said. "It's just a big game. I can't even describe how big it is for each team."