Before the 2002-03 season, Jean-Sebastien Giguere had no Stanley Cup Playoff games on his NHL resume.
But that all changed in dramatic fashion in the spring of 2003 as Giguere backstopped the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to within one win of a Stanley Cup championship. It's safe to say that Giguere is now ready for full-time employment in the postseason.
Last season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs were the great unknown for Giguere. He entered the first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings not knowing what to expect once the puck was dropped on the NHL's second season. But once Giguere got there, he developed a taste for postseason success and didn't let inexperience hold him back.
"In the Playoffs you have to approach it one game at a time," Giguere said. "It doesn't matter where the series is at and what the score is. You have to just do whatever you have to do to win one game and once that game is over you move on to the next game.
"You just have to do whatever it takes because after that we have two months off. There's no reason to hold back. You just try to go out there and leave everything on the table and see what happens after that."
While Giguere played like a seasoned pro in his first NHL postseason, many would be surprised to know that the Ducks' goalie didn't always trust in his skills. As a matter of fact, the former first-round selection of the Hartford Whalers bounced around the League before landing in sunny California. When the Whalers franchise moved to North Carolina, Giguere became property of the Carolina Hurricanes, who traded the goaltender, along with center Andrew Cassels, to the Calgary Flames for left wing Gary Roberts and goalie Trevor Kidd on August 25, 1997.
After appearing in only 22 games over two seasons with Calgary, the Flames traded Giguere to the Mighty Ducks on June 10, 2000 in exchange for a second-round choice in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. That trade was based more on circumstance than Giguere's play. The Flames opted to deal Giguere instead of taking the chance he would be selected by either the Minnesota Wild or the Columbus Blue Jackets in the expansion draft.
"As far as Calgary is concerned, I think they did what they had to do," Giguere said. "At that time I wasn't ready to play in the NHL and they needed somebody that was ready to go. With the expansion draft and all that, nobody knows what's going to happen. They probably got as good as they could have got back then. I wasn't playing as well as I could, I was struggling in the minors. There's not much I could have done different."
After appearing in only 22 games over two seasons with Calgary, the Flames traded Giguere to the Mighty Ducks on June 10, 2000 in exchange for a second-round choice in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
The pieces have come together in Anaheim and Giguere credits Francois Allaire, the Mighty Ducks' goaltending consultant, with giving him the tools he needed to be successful in the NHL.
"Francois gave me confidence by giving me tools in my bag to work with -- a technique that's very simple to use, a foundation that, whenever things go wrong or whenever things go right, I always try to stay with the same foundation," Giguere said. "You can't change your game plan. If I give two, three goals in the next game in the first period, I'm not going to change the way I play because of that.
"He gave me some tools to play with. Playing with those skills gave me a lot of confidence."
Allaire took Giguere under his wing and restored his confidence by tweaking his style a bit and taking him on a trip back in time.
"I think I just got him back to the style he had when he was really good in junior. He was a first round draft pick in '95 and I knew of him at that time and I watched him play. He was really, really good back then, but I think he lost a little bit of direction after that," Allaire said. "We just did some moderate things to get him back on track and as soon as he realized what we were doing he was like; 'Oh yeah, now I remember.' When a guy knows the direction we're leaning towards I think the confidence starts to come back."
Allaire's work with Giguere started paying off for Anaheim during the 2001-02 season when the Quebec native ousted Steve Shields as the Ducks' No. 1 goalie and posted 20 wins, a team record 2.13 GAA and a .920 save percentage. In the 2002-03 regular season, Giguere also had a solid campaign by setting career highs in wins (34), games played (65), minutes played (3,775) and shutouts (8).
Jean-Sebastien Giguere credits Francois Allaire, the Mighty Ducks' goaltending consultant, with giving him the tools he needed to be successful in the NHL.
"He's taught me a lot," Giguere said of Allaire. "When I came here to Anaheim three years ago, my game wasn't nearly as good as it could have been. My confidence level was very low. I wasn't sure if I could ever play in the NHL. He just brought my game back to a very simple way of playing. Every time there's a situation happening on the ice, I know a very simple answer to make every time. He's given that to me. He's given me a lot of confidence, a lot of experience. He's got 20 years' experience in the NHL."
According to Allaire, the experience Giguere gained playing against some of the top teams in the NHL in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs was invaluable to the up-and-coming goaltender.
"For him, it was a new occasion to learn about his job and get better," Allaire said. "It was a great opportunity for a young kid to play against those teams who are used to the Playoff experience. There's nothing better than for a young kid to meet with those teams because that's the fastest way to improve in this League."
So, if goalies need to play in the Playoffs in order to get better, how did Giguere get so good, so fast without having any prior postseason encounters?
In the 2002-03 regular season, Giguere set career highs in wins (34), games played (65), minutes played (3,775) and shutouts (8).
"You don't get good overnight. You know you need to work at it. You need to give time to develop yourself," Giguere explained. "I have been playing since I was 5-years-old, and every day it's been for me getting better, and I find since I have been to Anaheim, I have been working really well on my game. Not just working hard, but working at my game and making my game better, and so now I feel like I have a good foundation. I feel like I can rely on something.
"Whenever I have a bad day, I know I can bounce back because I feel strong. I feel like my foundation is very solid. It's been a lot of work, but it has not been overnight. I try to approach a practice the same way I would approach the game. I try to make one save at a time."