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Remembering the 2003 Stanley Cup Championship

June 13 is one of those dates most New Jersey Devils’ fans always remember.

On this date eight years ago, the Devils defeated the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 3-0, to win the organization’s third Stanley Cup. It was the third championship in eight years, solidifying their dynastic run. Since that win, they’ve failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs.

This, however, is a happy moment. We won’t dwell on the organization’s playoff shortcomings now. So sit back and relax as we recap the run to the team’s Stanley Cup championship.

New Jersey entered the playoffs the second seed in the conference, three points behind the conference champion Ottawa Senators. The faced off against the seventh-seeded Boston Bruins in the first round. They played them well during the regular season, compiling a 2-1-1 record. The Devils won the first two games at home and pushed Boston to the brink of elimination after a Game 3 win. The Bruins responded in Game 4, chasing Martin Brodeur in a 5-1 victory. The series would come to an end in Game 5, as Brodeur rebounded to blank Boston, 3-0.

Round two brought the Tampa Bay Lightning, a more difficult opponent. The Devils managed just a 1-1-2 record against Tampa Bay, who won the cup the next season. The Devils took the first two at home, including an overtime winner in Game 2. Tampa Bay almost coughed up a 3-0 lead on home ice in Game 3, as the Devils stormed back to tie the game. Dave Andreychuk scored the game winner to break the goosegg.

That would be the highlight for Tampa Bay. The Devils would win the next two games, clinching the series with a triple-overtime win in Game 5.

The Devils advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Senators, a matchup of the top two seeds in the conference. New Jersey hadn’t played well against Ottawa during the regular season, going 1-3-0. The Devils dropped the series opener, 3-2, marking the only opener they’d lose in the playoffs. They bounced back to win the next three games, pushing the Senators to the brink of elimination. Ottawa rallied, winning the next two to force a decisive Game 7. The team’s were tied in the third period, 2-2, until Jeff Friesen struck:

The goal would send the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals and make Friesen a hero in New Jersey.

The Mighty Ducks entered the Finals after a pretty amazing playoff run. They entered the postseason as the seventh seed and swept the defending champion Detroit Red Wings. They beat the top-seeded Dallas Stars in six games, then swept the Minnesota Wild. Brodeur was strong in Games 1 and 2, posting back-to-back 3-0 shutouts. The Ducks went back home and won their two home games, sending the series back to New Jersey tied, 2-2. The Devils then pounded the Ducks, 6-3, in Game 5 to close within one game of the championship. The Ducks returned the favor in Game 6, crushing the Devils, 5-2. It wasn’t an all one-sided affair, as Scott Stevens laid out Paul Kariya with this memorable hit:

Kariya would return and score a goal he later admitted he didn’t remember.

It came down to Game 7 at the Meadowlands. That’s when another Devil, this time Mike Rupp, would etch his name into Devils playoff lore:

Rupp became the first player in history to have his first playoff goal be a Stanley Cup-winning goal. They added two more for insurance, and shut out the Ducks, 3-0, for the championship. J.S. Giguere won the Conn Smythe, and deservedly so. But the Devils had their cup, the dynasty complete.

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Happy Twenty Years, Martin Brodeur!

June 16th isn’t a particularly important day in the lives of many NHL fans.

But for Devils fans, it should ring a bell and hold a special place in our hearts. Because, 20 years ago today, the team drafted their biggest star ever – Martin Brodeur.

On June 16, 1990, the Devils pulled off one of the greatest draft day trades of all time. The teams exchanged five draft picks, including first-round selections, which moved the Devils from the 11th slot down to the 20th.  The Flames went on to use the 11th pick to draft Trevor Kidd. The Devils, eyeing Brodeur throughout the draft, got their goalie at #20.

Who knew the skinny kid from Montreal would become one of the greatest goalies of all-time? The New Jersey Devils, that's who. Photo Credit: NewJerseyDevils.com

After drafting the future Hall of Famer, the Devils began to build the core of their three Stanley Cup championships. The previous October the team acquired a first-round draft selection, which brought in Scott Niedermayer. Scott Stevens came to the team from St. Louis as compensation, giving the team two of the best defenders to ever suit up for the franchise.

Brodeur took over the number one role during the 1994 season, leading the Devils to the conference finals. The next year, the team won the Stanley Cup. And the rest has been history.

Since Brodeur became the Devils number one goalie, the team has only missed the playoffs once. They’ve won three Stanley Cup titles, four Eastern Conference championships, and nine Atlantic Division titles. During this time, Brodeur has also achieved several individual milestones. He tops the goaltending record book in wins (602), games played (1, 076), shutouts (110) and minutes played (63,521). He enters the 2010-2011 season 1,013 saves shy of Patrick Roy’s all-time saves record (25,803).

When he was drafted, Brodeur could never imagine the impact he’d have on his position.

“You don’t realize it when you get drafted what path you’re going to take,” Brodeur said in an NHL.com interview. “This is the first step into doing something. I think you have to get drafted, to a certain extent. That’s the easiest way to get to the NHL. Definitely, when you do get drafted in the first round, usually teams will do everything they can to give you a chance to make it or be part of the organization, so I was really excited about that.”

Growing up in the 1990s, I began to embrace the Devils. One of the biggest reasons for choosing the Devils over my family’s team, the Rangers, was because of Brodeur. Whether it was the incredible saves or his steely confidence in net, he always seemed to be the team’s rock. No matter the situation, “Marty” always stood tall. Those qualities drew me in, and they continue to astound me today. Whenever he makes an incredible glove save or flares out his pad to deny a goal, I get that childhood giddiness and jump out my seat.

So Devils fans everywhere should celebrate today and remember today as a turning point in the history of the New Jersey Devils.