- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Before last night’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens seemed almost embarrassed by all the fuss. But what was just another game to him was a milestone game for the NHL, adding another chapter to the growing Stevens chronicle.

Stevens, 39, became the all-time leader among defensemen in games played in the Stanley Cup playoffs last night, appearing in his 228th, one more than legendary Larry Robinson.

Stevens moved into fifth place on the all-time list, three behind retired Montreal standout Guy Carbonneau. Patrick Roy, the Colorado goalie who retired Wednesday, is the all-time leader at 247.

“You have to be around a while to get those type of records,” Stevens said. “To pass Larry is special because Larry always meant a lot to me. He taught me a lot about the position, helped make me a better player. There’s no question he was a great all-around defenseman, which is what I’ve tried to be.”

Stevens paused as if in mid-thought, then added, “That’s a lot of games. It’s hard to believe.”

In fact, the total amounts to nearly three complete seasons on top of the 21 full seasons he has already played in the NHL. The total is 1,825 games — not including preseason, World Championship games, the World Cup of Hockey and the Olympics.

Stevens’ reliability is virtually unmatched. He and Rod Langway formed the starting defensive pair in the Washington Capitals’ first playoff game April6, 1983, against the Islanders in New York (Stevens was ejected after fighting Duane Sutter.)

Stevens was the starter again last night, continuing to appear in every playoff game he was eligible for since his first, except for one: April10, 1988, an overtime loss in Philadelphia. (The Caps won the series on Dale Hunter’s overtime goal in the seventh game.)

“I don’t have any idea why I missed that game,” Stevens said, although it was possible he was serving one of his infrequent suspensions that usually resulted from playing at full throttle 100 percent of the time.

Stevens was picked by the Caps fifth overall in 1982 and had a slot secured with the then-defensively inept team before training camp started, only he didn’t know that. He played with Washington through the 1989-90 season, when he accepted an offer sheet from St. Louis for the unheard of salary of $1million a year for five years.

Caps general manager David Poile accepted the Blues’ first-round draft picks for five years as compensation rather than match the Blues’ offer — a decision from which the club still hasn’t recovered 13 years later.

Stevens played one season for St. Louis, then was awarded to New Jersey as compensation when the Blues signed Brendan Shanahan from the Devils. St. Louis had offered goalie Curtis Joseph and forward Rod Brind’Amour as compensation.

It doesn’t end there. In 1994, before his contract with the Devils ended, Stevens was illegally contacted by St. Louis about the possibility of re-signing there, and the Blues were caught. St. Louis was fined $1.5million for tampering and ordered to swap first-round drafting positions with the Devils at New Jersey’s convenience. The Devils have decided next month’s draft is convenient.

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