- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

DETROIT This is the one the National Hockey League had been hoping for, Colorado vs. Detroit. This is the one television had been praying for; three of the top four most-viewed NHL games have featured the Red Wings and Avalanche.

This is the one many feel will be the true Stanley Cup final, the two best teams in the strong Western Conference going at it; the East has been so weak all season that it isn't viewed as much of a challenge.

Finally, this is the one that truly features a clash of titans, two of the best goalies in the history of the game finally going after each other in a playoff series.

Colorado's Patrick Roy, 36, has won four Stanley Cups. He has won more Conn Smythe trophies (playoff MVP) than any other individual (three). He has won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) three times and more regular-season games than anybody else (515 and counting). He is the best money goalie in the game's history though he has never won an Olympic gold medal or a World Championship.

Detroit's Dominik Hasek, 37, has won the Vezina Trophy six times. He has won a World Championship and Olympic gold, both with the Czech Republic. He has come within one hotly disputed and still debated goal (by current teammate Brett Hull) of possibly winning a Stanley Cup and led Buffalo deep into the playoffs several times when the team would have been playing golf without him. But he has never achieved the NHL's ultimate triumph, the one glaring hole in an otherwise sparkling resume.

And they have faced each other only once other than regular-season competition in the Nagano Olympic Games when Canada and the Czechs played to a 1-1 draw after overtime. Hasek was perfect in the shootout while Roy let one through.

Stats? Don't let them worry you because they don't worry the two individuals involved. Hasek is 8-3 in the 2002 playoffs with a 2.27 goals-against and a so-so .909 saves percentage. Roy is 8-6, 2.22 and a mediocre .915 saves percentage. The only stat that really concerns either of them starts with the letter W.

Scotty Bowman, the Detroit mastermind, started winning Stanley Cups in Montreal when he found a goalie on the Cornell University campus named Ken Dryden, who later became a lawyer, best-selling author and is now general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We had good goaltending in the past," Bowman said yesterday, perhaps slipping into the past, which is his right considering his massive accomplishments in the sport. But he said it was unfair to put the weight of the series on the goalies' shoulders, which will probably be the case anyway.

"It's very difficult when you get up against experienced goalies in this league," the coach said, putting any age issue far to the rear. "Goalies seem to get better as they get older. People think they're not going to be able to play [but] they seem to get better. That seems to be the formula for these types of goalies."

But it may not be up to Roy and Hasek, Bowman maintained, the rest of the players may have something to say about it.

"It's very difficult right now to look at the series and say it's just going to be whatever these guys stop," he said. "You don't know what the rest of the team is going to do. I think both teams' goalies can carry [their teams]. They have carried their teams before so they have a reasonably good chance, in the same situations, they can do it again."

Hasek left the Sabres after last season when it became apparent that Buffalo could not afford to regularly put a team on the ice that could vie for the Cup. He left because he knew ultimately his career on this side of the Atlantic at least would be judged by how many Cups he won, a fact he acknowledged. And to win a Cup, he knew he had to get past Roy.

"This is the first time we have faced each other in the playoffs," Hasek said. "His record is much better than mine but I think it doesn't mean anything anymore because this is a new series and I am ready to go."

But whatever pressure there is sits squarely on Hasek's shoulders. He is the man who admitted he moved to Detroit solely for a shot at the Cup, he is the man who is chasing all of Roy's records, he is the man who must challenge Roy's remarkable ability to win under pressure.

"The pressure is on both goalies but I haven't won the Cup so maybe there is more pressure on me," Hasek said. "I can't compare my accomplishments to his but what happened in the past doesn't matter."

Somebody drop the puck.

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