"It seemed that we didn't want it as badly as they did. We don't feel like we accomplished something just by getting to the finals again — we weren't a Cinderella team that was just happy to be there. To lose the Stanley Cup Final like that was devastating. Anything less than a championship is a disappointment."
-- Former Devil, Ken Daneyko
The 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs often looked like the NHL's version of "Everybody Loves Raymond," with Ray Bourque
in the starring role. Bourque's quest for his first Stanley Cup ring was the story of the Playoffs for most of the hockey world.
Don't count Ken Daneyko in that group.
The veteran defenseman and his New Jersey Devils
teammates had no interest in seeing Bourque cap his Hall of Fame career by winning the Cup that had eluded him for more than two decades. As the defending champions, they were much more interested in making their own kind of history.
"We'd already won two Cups (the first in 1995), and a win would have put us in the class of a dynasty," says Daneyko, whose tenure with the Devils dated to 1983-84, the franchise's second season in New Jersey. "Ray Bourque
winning the Cup wasn't my story line. I wanted us to win and become a dynasty."
For the first time since 1988-89, the 2001 Final matched up the conference champions; the Devils won the East and the Colorado Avalanche
was No. 1 in the West. According to Daneyko, there were no secrets between the two teams.
"We knew how good they were," he said of the Avalanche, which earned the chance to host Game 7 by winning the Presidents' Trophy. "They finished with 116 points. They were the best. We knew what to expect. I don't think there was any extra pressure on us because we were the defending champs. We were both expected to be there."
The Devils had a chance to avoid a seventh game when they captured Game 5 in Denver. They went back to New Jersey with the opportunity to finish off the series, but Patrick Roy
was superb in a 4-0 shutout that sent the series back to Colorado for a seventh and deciding game.
"We didn't put in a good effort in Game 6," Daneyko said. "That was the disappointing part. We should have wrapped it up and not left things to chance in Game 7. They had momentum going back to their building after winning Game 6."
The Avalanche rode that momentum and the home-ice edge to a 3-0 lead and coasted to a 3-1 victory, giving Bourque the one thing he had never won in a career that's earned him a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The loss grated on Daneyko, now a host on Devils’ telecasts.
"It seemed that we didn't want it as badly as they did," he said. "We don't feel like we accomplished something just by getting to the finals again — we weren't a Cinderella team that was just happy to be there. To lose the Stanley Cup Final like that was devastating. Anything less than a championship is a disappointment."
And though Daneyko respected what Bourque accomplished, it was hard to watch him skating around the Pepsi Center with the Cup Daneyko and his teammates felt should have been theirs.
"He had a great career — he's a Hall of Famer and maybe the best defenseman that ever played," Daneyko said of Bourque. "If I wasn't in [the Final], I'd have been happy for him. But it's tough to be happy for him when you're on the other side."