Game 1 8:00 on ESPN
With Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Martin Brodeur in goal, it should require very little offense for either the Anaheim Mighty Ducks or New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup.
Giguere and the Ducks look to complete their stunning postseason run and win their first NHL championship by knocking off Brodeur and the playoff-tested New Jersey Devils, who are looking for their third Stanley Cup in eight years.
It may be difficult for anyone who prefers high-scoring games to enjoy this final series, in which the performance of the two goaltenders may go further toward determining the outcome than ever before.
The 26-year-old Giguere, though, is as tough in turning away that notion as he has been in stopping opponents' shots during this postseason.
"It's team against team,'' Giguere said. "Whoever shows up best as a team is going to win. Obviously, a goalie's a part of the team, so you need the goalie to play well, along with your defensemen and your forwards. That's the only way you're successful.''
His performance, of course, suggests otherwise.
Giguere has followed up a breakout regular season with one of the best playoff performances ever by a goalie -- and he's been getting better as he has gone along. Giguere lowered his goals-against average to 1.22 in these playoffs by almost completely shutting down the Minnesota Wild in Anaheim's sweep in the Western Conference finals.
By going the entire series allowing only one goal, which came in the final game, Giguere powered the seventh-seeded Mighty Ducks into the first Cup finals in the nine-year history of the franchise.
Giguere has his team playing for the championship because he has overcome challenge after challenge in these playoffs, and he'll have a few more as this series gets under way. Perhaps the most immediate is Anaheim's layoff, which reached 10 days because of the Ducks' sweep of the Wild, as well as the Devils' seven-game victory over the Ottawa Senators in the East finals.
Goaltenders thrive on regular work and feel for the puck, and Giguere could be very rusty in Game 1 after not facing shots in game situations for more than a week.
Anaheim first-year coach Mike Babcock, however, isn't concerned the layoff could affect his star goaltender or his team.
"I could tell by the way we were today, our guys are excited and looking forward to playing,'' Babcock said after a spirited practice Saturday. "It's kind of like the switch goes on again. It's been long, and yet, you can't just not do anything for 10 days. Our guys have worked hard to prepare and we're going to be ready.''
Even if Giguere is able to pick up where he left off, Brodeur is sure to present another obstacle for him. The Devils goalie has led his club to a pair of Stanley Cups, and has been arguably the NHL's best at his position over the past several years.
Brodeur is clearly the best goaltender the Mighty Ducks have faced in this postseason.
"I will answer a lot of questions from now until the end of the series about Giguere, but that's not new,'' Brodeur said. "I played a final against Patrick Roy a few years ago and it was the same.
"Technically, (Giguere's) as good as anybody out there and he's playing with a lot of confidence.''
Despite needing seven games to eliminate top-seeded Ottawa, New Jersey's layoff of three days may be the perfect amount to keep it from losing momentum. The Devils' experience and penchant for clutch goals lifted them past the Senators in Game 7 at Ottawa on Friday night, as Jeff Friesen scored with 2:14 remaining in the third period to give New Jersey a 3-2 win.
The victory gave the Devils their third berth in the Stanley Cup finals in four seasons.
Friesen's presence in the series is one of several subplots between the clubs. The forward was dealt to the Devils last summer along with defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky as part of a seven-player deal with the Ducks. Forward Petr Sykora, one of Anaheim's top forwards, went to the Ducks in the trade.
"It's funny how your career works,'' said Friesen, who had three game-winning goals against Ottawa.
The Mighty Ducks-Devils series will also give the NHL the first matchup between brothers in the Cup finals since 1946. Anaheim center Rob Niedermayer, a late-season addition, will be going against his brother, Scott, a winner of two Stanley Cups and one of the anchors of the Devils' formidable defense.
"As kids growing up, being competitive, we were always playing against each other, so I guess it's only fitting that we're doing it in the Stanley Cup finals,'' Rob Niedermayer said.
Game 2 will be Thursday night at Continental Airlines Arena.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mighty Ducks - 7th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-0, conference quarterfinals; beat Dallas Stars 4-2, conference semifinals; beat Minnesota Wild 4-0, conference finals. Devils - 2nd seed; beat Boston Bruins 4-1, conference quarterfinals; beat Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1, conference semifinals; beat Ottawa Senators 4-3, conference finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Mighty Ducks - Paul Kariya, 5 goals; Mike Leclerc, 8 assists; Leclerc and Adam Oates, 10 points; Ruslan Salei, 18 PIM. Devils - Jamie Langenbrunner, 9 goals; Scott Niedermayer, 11 assists, Langenbrunner and John Madden, 15 points; Colin White, 25 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Mighty Ducks - Power play: 11.5 percent (6 for 52). Penalty killing: 87.8 percent (43 for 49). Devils - Power play: 15.9 percent (10 for 63). Penalty killing: 89.3 percent (50 for 56).
GOALTENDERS: Mighty Ducks - Giguere (12-2, 4 SO, 1.22 GAA); Martin Gerber (0-0, 3.00). Devils - Brodeur (12-5, 4, 1.62); Corey Schwab (0-0, 0.00).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Devils, 2-0. In the first meeting, Langenbrunner and Scott Gomez had goals 29 seconds apart to force overtime, and Langenbrunner scored with 1:56 left in the extra period to give the Devils a 3-2 home victory Nov. 12. In the second matchup, Jay Pandolfo's short-handed goal broke a tie midway through the final period to lift New Jersey to a 3-1 win Jan. 24 at Arrowhead Pond.