Giguere lifts Ducks to surprising heights

Quit acting so surprised.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere's postseason performance is shocking people like they were tossed into a frigid pool on a hot summer day. After all, it's not like Jiggy's regular season had everyone totally prepared -- his record (34-25-6) and goals-against average (2.30) didn't even place him in the top third of the league. But his 237 minutes and 7 seconds of scoreless hockey back in December, his eight shutouts and his .920 save percentage should have served plenty of notice.

It's a running joke that postseason hockey should simply be called "Goalie," and Giguere proved it with 63 saves in his first career playoff outing -- a triple-overtime 2-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Even a seventh-seeded team up against Hall-of-Famer-laden Detroit can play with confidence knowing the guy behind them will stop every puck he sees, and some that he can't. Giguere stopped 73 straight shots and allowed only six goals in the Ducks' four-game sweep of the Wings, even though the Wings outshot the Ducks 171-120 in the series.

"Let's be honest," Mighty Ducks center Steve Rucchin said, "We beat Detroit in four games, but we didn't beat Detroit in four games -- J-S Giguere beat Detroit in four games. It was unbelievable, just an incredible performance. He won (the) series single-handedly, really. Fedorov, Yzerman, Shanahan ... they can make you look silly, and they did at times. But we've got No. 35 -- the best goalie in the game. And no other team does."

Now, that's confidence.

Then came the Dallas Stars. Giguere allowed an almost-human (almost) 14 goals through the six-game conference semifinals. He stopped 40 consecutive shots, and 60 altogether, during the five-overtime affair that was Game 1, the fifth-longest game in NHL history.

Against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference finals, Giguere notched three consecutive shutouts and stopped 101 consecutive shots for another lengthy scoreless streak -- 217 minutes and 54 seconds, the longest playoff streak since 1950. He gave up just one goal in the series, a tip-in by Minnesota's Andrew Brunette in Game 4.

He is steady, but not spectacular. He is fantastic in a most un-fantastic way. Giguere moves straight up-and-down for every save he makes. He is workmanlike, calm and prepared for every shot. There is no diving, sliding across the crease, or lunging for pucks. He is never in a precarious posture because he is always in perfect position.

"If I make a spectacular save, it means I did something wrong," Giguere said.

He's been so good that opposing players, including Stars winger Claude Lemieux and Wild left winger Antti Laaksonen, have suggested that Giguere's equipment might be oversized. But it's been measured, and it's legal. Ducks right winger Steve Thomas called them out for "stirring the pot" in an effort to put a little more pressure on the 26-year-old netminder.

But entering the playoffs, even Giguere, without a lick of playoff experience to his credit, knew he'd be on the hot seat.

"Being the goalie in the playoffs is the big part of the game," he said. "It doesn't matter what the outcome will be. I know I'll be a better player at the end of this, just to have that playoff experience. If you look at the last 10 years and who won the Stanley Cup, it is always a good goalie in net. Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour. It goes on and on."

Little did anyone know that Giguere, who spent half a season in the AHL as recently as 2001 and won just 20 games in 2001-02, would be topping the performances of those "good goalies" and pasting his name in the record books. In 2001, Roy posted a 1.70 GAA with four shutouts. In 2000, Brodeur had a 1.61 and two shutouts. In 1999, Belfour had a 1.67 with three shutouts. And last season, Hasek had a 1.86 with six shutouts. They all finished with records of 16-7.

Heading into the Stanley Cup finals, Giguere is 12-2 with a 1.22 GAA and four shutouts. In the worst-case scenario, Giguere would lose only six games. The best case? He'd finish with no more than five and the Mighty Ducks would win the Stanley Cup.

And wouldn't that be a surprise.

Linsday Berra of ESPN The Magazine can be e-mailed at lindsay.berra@espnmag.com.