Sauer spam, with Jigga quote on him! Eee!!!
For Sauer, a sweet effort
By Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com
May 14, 2003
Goals are such a rare commodity for Anaheim defenseman Kurt Sauer that he had to make sure he had actually scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in Monday's 2-0 win against the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at the Xcel Energy Center.
"I went around the net to make sure it really went in," explained Sauer, who scored on a second-period penalty kill on a pretty drop pass from Steve Rucchin.
There is no slight in saying offense is not Sauer's forte. The precocious rookie had just one goal and two assists in 80 regular-season games this season. In the Playoffs, he had registered just four shots in the 11 games before his goal Monday night -- a rising slapper that ticked off the stick of a Wild defender and past Wild goalie Dwayne Roloson.
While Sauer may not have much of an offensive upside, he certainly has a flair for the dramatic.
You see, Kurt Sauer is from St. Cloud, Minn., just an hour's drive from the rink he scored in Monday night. He played his high-school hockey at St. Cloud Apollo High School, authoring a local-boy-makes-good-story by slogging through a year in the United States Hockey League and three years with Spokane of the Western Hockey League before being given a shot by the Mighty Ducks. A shot he buried, just like Monday's goal.
Monday night, 30 family members and friends were squeezed into Section 214 of the Xcel Energy Center to watch Sauer perform in his latest scene. The script could not have been written better by a Hollywood screen writer.
After the win, which gave the Mighty Ducks a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, Sauer was still having trouble digesting the significance of the moment.
"I had to keep her down for sure," said Sauer, talking about his emotional state. "There was lots of hockey left after that. We were only up 1-0, but scoring in front of the family, it's my first playoff goal. It was real nice."
And, again, real unexpected.
Before the game, coach Mike Babcock was teasing Sauer about his production. He jokingly pointed out that Sauer was near the top of the scoring race for rookies in the Playoffs. In fact, his one assist was good for seventh place on the list, and Ottawa rookie Anton Volchenkov led all rookie defensemen with just two points.
"Before the game, I said to Kurt, 'You're in the top of the rookies scoring in Playoffs. That's because there is no rookies in the Playoffs,' said Babcock. "He started to laugh. I said you better get that out and frame it."
That is what they call foreshadowing in the movie business, my friends.
Babcock can joke with Sauer because he has known the rookie defenseman for four years. Back in 1999-2000, Babcock was the coach of the Spokane team that welcomed Sauer. Babcock left the next season to coach the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League, but he kept tabs on Sauer.
This past summer, he suggested to Anaheim General Manager Bryan Murray that the club sign Sauer as a free agent, with the plan of developing him for a few years in the minor leagues. Murray agreed to the signing, but differed on the developmental plan, says Babcock.
"He was going to the minors for three years," Babcock said Monday night. "When Brian Murray asked me about it, I said, 'He can play for sure, but it's going to take him some time.' And then when Brian saw him the first day, it wasn't me, he said this guy will play in the National [Hockey] League."
Murray proved to be right. Sauer cracked the opening-day lineup and has been a mainstay since, improving on a game-by-game basis. In the Playoffs, Sauer has been a rock for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
His plus-6 rating is tied with teammate Stanislav Chistov for the best plus/minus rating among rookies. He has also averaged a rookie-best 22:25 of ice time per game for the team, playing in virtually all situations.
Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has gotten all the credit for Anaheim's stinginess in the postseason, has had a front-row seat from which to observe Sauer's growth from nervous rookie to grizzled Playoff veteran.
"Obviously, Kurt, he has been great all year," said Giguere. "He's been playing like a veteran, and he's a big guy out there. He takes his men. He does what he has to do."
Monday, he did more than he had to. It's a night he will never forget, even if he goes on to play 15 years in the NHL, something that seems highly likely these days, according to Ducks' management.
"I had to stay out of the clouds," said Sauer. I couldn't take it all in."
Not even after he made that circle around the net to make sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him.
Can't take it anymore! *explodes*