Originally created 06/09/01

Devils: only pattern to these Stanley Cup finals is no pattern



DENVER -- Two games into one of the most unpredictable Stanley Cup finals ever, New Jersey Devils coach Larry Robinson sensed this series would be different.

The Colorado Avalanche controlled every aspect of play in a 5-0 victory in Game 1, dominated by their numerous scoring chances. But the Devils bounced back with a 2-1 victory in Game 2 in Denver dictated by defense.

Two games in the same building in four days, and two distinctively different results. If there is any pattern in the first finals to go to a Game 7 since 1994, it is that no pattern has emerged through six games.

"It seems that different teams show up every night," Robinson said Friday. "We looked like we didn't belong (in Game 1) and, then, all of a sudden, we play a good game and since then it has been back and forth."

Defenseman Ken Daneyko noticed the same thing as the Devils arrived in Denver on Friday for only the third Stanley Cup finals Game 7 in 30 years.

"They said the team winning Game 1 won the cup 80 percent of the time, then they said the team winning Game 2 won it 80 percent ... it was 80 percent every game," he said. "I gave up on it. The fact is it's a Game 7 between the two best teams, and neither team has that much of an edge."

Colorado won Game 3 in New Jersey, New Jersey won Game 5 in Denver. The home ice advantage is nonexistent, with the visiting team winning four times in six games. No wonder Daneyko is happy the Devils have an advantage Saturday night - namely, the road team advantage.

The Devils certainly had no home-ice edge in Colorado's must-win 4-0 victory in Game 6 Thursday night, one that tied the series following consecutive New Jersey victories, the only such back-to-back wins by either team.

"If you gave me a choice, I'd rather play this game on the road," said Daneyko, pointing to New Jersey's 18-5 playoff road record the last two seasons. "We play a simpler game on the road, we're patient, we relax after a bad game."

It also helps that goaltender Martin Brodeur maintains the same exterior coming off a 4-1 victory as he does off a 4-0 loss, thus maintaining a sense of confidence among his teammates that might be missing with a goalie less in control.

"Yeah, it seems that a lot of goalies are weirdoes," Daneyko said. "He's not."

Brodeur said he does get nervous, even if he doesn't always show it, and Robinson said he feels no differently as a coach than he did as a player. Robinson has never lost in eight finals, going 6-0 as a player, 1-0 as an assistant coach and 1-0 as a head coach.

"I have been 30 years in the business and I still get as nervous for these games as I did for my first game," said Robinson, whose team's unpredictability certainly isn't helping to relax him. "You have to control your nervousness and make it work for you."

Brodeur is coming off his second bad game of the series, one similar to Colorado's 5-0 victory in Game 1, yet he said it won't bother him Saturday. Brodeur has won two cups, in 1995 and last season, and can match Colorado goalie Patrick Roy by winning a third cup. However, Brodeur has never had to go to a Game 7 to win a cup before.

"The unfortunate thing about a game like this is a bad bounce could decide who wins a series," Brodeur said. "It's a great opportunity to be part of hockey history, but there are a lot of different ways a Game 7 can be decided."



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