Jean-Sebastien Giguere won more games than Ken Dryden, had more shutouts than Johnny Bower and enjoyed a fruitful 16-season NHL career, highlighted by a 2007 Stanley Cup championship with the Anaheim Ducks.
But if you ask casual fans on the street what comes to mind when they hear Giguere’s name, they typically don’t rhyme off a long list of his accomplishments. The answer focuses on one moment that defined his career: the 2003 playoffs, the unbelievable stretch when Giguere truly became ‘Jiggy.’
It’s not like 2003 – when Giguere carried the seventh-seeded Mighty Ducks to the Stanley Cup final – came completely unscripted. He actually broke out in 2001-02, when he posted a .920 save percentage in 53 starts. He backed it up the following season and entered the 2003 playoffs as Anaheim’s unquestioned starter.
He’d honed his craft under famous butterfly goalie guru Francois Allaire, best known as the man who shepherded Patrick Roy. Allaire had drilled Giguere on positioning, using his legs and especially conditioning to get him ready for the playoffs. And Giguere believed in his game – but he couldn’t shake the nerves as the powerhouse defending Stanley Cup-champion Detroit Red Wings loomed in Round 1. “I was really scared,” Giguere said. “I didn’t want to embarrass myself, I didn’t want to go in the playoffs and not be able to be a playoff goalie. But at the same time, from the time I started working with Francois to the playoffs in 2003, everything we did was about getting ready for that moment. That’s all Francois talked about. His whole way to approach the game is to win the next Stanley Cup.”
Preparation trumped jitters. Giguere stopped a jaw-dropping 63 shots in his first career playoff game, a 2-1 triple-overtime victory over Detroit, and embarked on an historic run in his first post-season, posting a 1.62 goals-against average and shutting out the opposition five times – one-third of the Ducks’ 15 playoff wins. Only win No. 16 eluded them, as they fell to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the final. Giguere earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP regardless.
The glory of 2003 was special, and Giguere, now 41, acknowledges it was the best hockey he ever played, but there was an emptiness after losing Game 7. “As much fun as it was in 2003, I was by myself on the ice getting the Conn Smythe Trophy,” he said. “None of my teammates knew I was getting it. I showed up in the room, and I put the trophy on the trainer’s bench and didn’t even bring it in the room, because it’s not something you want to share with the guys. It’s a sad moment for everybody.”
The 2007 playoff run, in which Anaheim finished the job and won the Cup, is much dearer to Giguere’s heart. It’s also easy to forget that, as amazing as Giguere’s 2003 performance was, there’s a case to be made he was even better in 2007 considering what he had to overcome. His son, Maxime, was born just before the post-season and required eye surgery. Giguere missed part of the first round, and even after he returned, doctors feared Maxime had cancer.
Giguere had to juggle the pressure of being a playoff goaltender with worrying every minute about his newborn son. Giguere persevered with a 1.97 GAA and .922 SP. Best of all, Maxime ended up OK, blind in one eye but with perfect sight in the other, and became part of an enduring hockey image: Maxime, about two months old, sitting in the Stanley Cup with Giguere holding him.
“That’s what I remember the most of winning the Cup, having my wife there with my kid, having my dad there and my family there,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s one thing to play hockey, but what we don’t see often is the sacrifice that has to go behind it. You want to share it with as many people that you love as you can.”
Born: May 16, 1977, Montreal, Que.
NHL Career: 1996-2014
Teams: Hfd, Cgy, Ana, Tor, Col
Stats: 262-216-75, 2.53 GAA, .913 SP, 38 SO
Trophies: 1 (Smythe-1)
Stanley Cups: 1
DID YOU KNOW?
Giguere’s 2003 playoff mastery landed him a spot on The Tonight Show before the post-season was over. Jay Leno teased him for having all his teeth, and Giguere confessed his fiancee hated his playoff beard. “She wants me to get a total makeover when all this is done, tanning salon, haircut, shave, everything,” Giguere said. Leno shot back, “It’s not like women to change guys when they get married. That’s unusual.”