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FISCHLER: Devils a likeable crew

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There's a tendency, while chronicling sports, to trespass into the Land of Exaggeration. Average events are viewed as "great" and the above-average becomes "fabulous." That's why, after helping to broadcast the marathon -Lightning finale last Friday night, I immediately applied my "Anti-Lock Exaggeration Brakes." I didn't want to skid into the hyperbole guard-rail. Nor did I want to be ticketed for speeding into the "sensational" mode. But when all is said and done — and the replay proves it — Game 5 between New Jersey and Tampa Bay was about as special as they come. And I'm NOT exaggerating either. As Pat Burns' skaters await the start of Round 3, they can bask in the glory of a hard-job well-done. How well? Consider some of the chief protagonists: MARTIN BRODEUR — A legitimate candidate for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies, Marty was memorable, besting a game in the triple-overtime clincher, as well as earlier key victories. SCOTT STEVENS — Too often taken for granted, the captain re-defined leadership and courage, spectacularly rebounding from his perilous ear injury which threatened to sideline him for the series. JOHN MADDEN — Critics mistakenly blamed for a mediocre series. It was directly caused by Mad Dog's relentless checking. Meanwhile JM still had plenty of scoring opportunities. SCOTT NIEDERMAYER — No one, in ANY sport, makes more successful subtle moves, both defensiveley and offensively, than Nieder. Who remembers that he crafted the tying goal and was architect of the triple overtime winner? I'll never forget them. SCOTT GOMEZ — Despite a painful ankle injury suffered near the end of Game 4, Scotty tenaciously pushed his way through three overtimes and enjoyed the best view of 's winner right in front of the net. KEN DANEYKO — If Stevens is a warrior, Dano is the warrior's warrior. Slowed by fatigue, Kenny hung tough enough to be unscored-on through the decisive Game 5. BRIAN GIONTA — The little-man-who's-always-there matched Tampa's super-scorer Martin St.Louis shift for shift. BG's interception and pass to Gomez for the opening score in Game 4 underlines Brian's usefulness. PATRIK ELIAS — I'm on his case a lot because I know he can deliver. The Czech forward never scored a bigger goal this year than his radar-filled first-period winner at Tampa in Game Four. JAMIE LANGENBRUNNER — Nobody — as in NO BODY — works harder than the Duluth native. His overtime goal in Game 2 provided a HUGE cushion against the ; among other JL contributions. TOMMY ALBELIN — Casually regarded as a never-to-be-used spare part, the vet defenseman was plugged into critical Games 4 and 5 by Burns. As always, the good soldier was Old Reliable. GRANT MARSHALL — As top-notch a personality — and brilliant Lou Lamoriello addition — as you'll get, Marsh has been top-cop for Elias and Gomez. His OT playoff-winner in Game 5 came not a moment too soon. The above represent just a sampling of the most likeable collection of NHLers I've ever had the good fortune to meet on ANY team and that includes Al Arbour's dynastic . There are more, to be sure. , , , , , , and all have been key contributors in their own way. At the start of the season a member of the staff put it to me succinctly: "If this club is to succeed, it'll do so on Marty Brodeur's goaltending and scoring by committee. The formula has worked exquisitely so far. Now, as we await the Conference Finals, fans can rest secure in the knowledge that Lamoriello has delivered as well-balanced a team — as in T-E-A-M — for which one could wish. "New Jersey beat Tampa Bay because Burns was able to put four (good) lines on the ice at any time," executive vice-president Jimmy Devellano tells me. "The could not do that." No question, the are deep. No doubt the respite between rounds will be beneficial to the tired and wounded. And make no mistake about this: The are men on a mission. That, too, is hardly an exaggeration. Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey. Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on "MSG SportsDesk" and on Fox Sports Net's "Regional Sports Report — New York Edition." Fischler also provides studio interviews and pre- and post-game features and reports for both the and on FSN. His columns appear regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
Tagged: Red Wings, Devils, Islanders, Lightning, Grant Marshall, Joe Nieuwendyk, Sergei Brylin, Jay Pandolfo, Brian Rafalski, Vincent Lecavalier, Jeff Friesen, Colin White, John Grahame

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