- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In hockey as in most other sports, there are warriors and there are floaters. Ken Daneyko is not a floater, not by a very long shot.

New Jersey coach Pat Burns reversed himself last night and went with sentiment over what logic probably dictated. Defenseman Ken Daneyko, who not so long ago went 256 games between goals, was back in the lineup for Game7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Daneyko has been with the Devils for 20 seasons, ever since they moved to the Meadowlands from Denver in 1982. He never has played for another team. And until this season he had played in every single New Jersey playoff game, 165 in a row.

That streak ended in the fourth game of the opening series, against Boston in April. For the first time in his NHL career, Daneyko, 39 and not swift afoot, was a healthy scratch.

“Am I here to coach sentiments, to coach sentimental values?” Burns asked questioners the next day. “If I am, please get somebody else because I’m in the wrong business. My decisions are not popular with certain players, particularly with older players, but they’re there.”

In total, Daneyko was a healthy scratch in 11 of the Devils’ 24 playoff games but was included in the most important game of the season for the team — last night’s. It was a decision everybody agreed with.

Alas, New Jersey center Joe Nieuwendyk did not play. He tore an oblique muscle in his left side in Game6 against Ottawa on May21, tried to return but found the injury far too painful. Nieuwendyk was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1999 with Dallas.

Reporter recalls ‘71

Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette has been covering the NHL for Montreal newspapers since before most of today’s coaches were born. The first Stanley Cup Finals he covered was at the end of the 1955-56 season, with the hometown Canadiens beating Detroit 4-1. He has missed only two finals series since, one when he was ailing and another when he felt it was more important to be home to help wife Tillie celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

Now pushing 76 very hard, Fisher was there for the 1996 finals when Florida was swept by Colorado, in 1998 when Washington was brushed aside by Detroit, and last season when Carolina briefly challenged Detroit. None, in Fisher’s mind, were as illogical potential champions as the 1971 Canadiens.

“They finished [24] points behind Boston that year and the Bruins had Bobby Orr and [Phil] Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, all those guys,” Fisher said, neglecting to mention that the Bruins won the Cup the previous year and won it again in 1972.

“It took them seven games in the first series [against Boston], they had to go to six games to beat Minnesota in the second round and they were losing 2-0 to Chicago in the seventh game of the finals when [Jacques] Lemaire put one behind [goalie Tony] Esposito from the other side of the red line,” Fisher said.

Montreal had an almost secret weapon for that playoff season, a young goalie educated at Cornell University named Ken Dryden. The goalie had spent the season in the minors until general manager Sam Pollock called him up at before the season ended and coach Al MacNeil used Dryden in just six NHL games before the playoffs started.

The current playoff format, where eight teams are seeded in each conference, was adopted in 1994. New Jersey was the lowest seed to win a Cup previously, shocking Detroit in four straight in 1995 as a No.5 seed. Washington was the fourth seed the year it made it to the finals.

Had the current seeding procedure been on the books in 1986, Montreal would have held the long-shot title. The Canadiens would have been seeded fifth that season before going on to defeat Calgary, 4-1.

Milestones

Devils coach Pat Burns coached in his ninth Game7 last night, a record now shared with two others, Scotty Bowman and Mike Keenan. … Devils defenseman Scott Stevens played in his 13th Game7, tying the record he now shares with retired goalie Patrick Roy. … Stevens moved into a third-place tie with former teammate Claude Lemieux for most Stanley Cup games played (233). Roy leads with 247.

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