Whenever they needed someone to prop up their sagging confidence, Patrick Roy was there. Whenever they needed a huge performance, or just a ready quip to counter the opposition's trash-talk, Patrick Roy was there.
More than any other player, goalie Patrick Roy is the reason the Colorado Avalanche find themselves in the Stanley Cup finals.No one has stood taller, whether to accept blame on the rare occasions he faltered, or to boldly promise victory and then deliver.
In its joyride through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Colorado has lost six games. After each loss, Roy responded with a resounding win.
The last, a 4-1 victory which eliminated favored Detroit on Wednesday night, gave the Avalanche the Western Conference title. They await the winner of the Eastern Conference final series between Pittsburgh and Florida which will be decided Saturday night in a Game 7.
"He's the best goaltender in the game," teammate Claude Lemieux said of Roy. "If he says, `Don't worry about it, we're going to win,' you believe him. He needs the challenge, he needs the pressure. He can take more pressure than anyone I've ever known."
The talented, free-wheeling Avalanche already were successful when general manager Pierre Lacroix, sensing the need for more defense and playoff toughness, traded three young prospects to the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 6, for the 30-year-old Roy, who owned two Stanley Cup rings, two Conn Smythe trophies as playoff MVP and three Vezina trophies as the league's best goalie.
The trade was criticized in some quarters, especially when Roy endured what was, for him, a so-so regular season. Lacroix feels vindicated.
"Now maybe you begin to understand why I brought Roy here," he said.
Roy's teammates speak reverently of him.
"Being his roommate, he has taught me so much," defenseman Adam Foote said. "I played four years in Quebec and I really didn't have anyone to teach me some of the little things that win Cups, little things like tradition. We want to build tradition here. He want to build a championship club, not just for one year. We want to put Denver on the map, and that's what Patrick Roy is all about.
"He's just here to win. He has broken records, but he wants to win, and he's got that attitude in the room before everyone else. He could have spent his whole career in Montreal. He made a big move, and he deserves this more than anyone."
Roy has fierce pride to the point of arrogance, which puts off some of his competitors. Still, there is respect.
"He basically won the two Cups he did win on his own," said Chicago defenseman Chris Chelios, who played with Roy on one of those Montreal championship teams in 1986.
It was Roy who, apparently trying to ease the tension on the eve of the biggest game in franchise history, chided Detroit prior to Game 6. Referring to the Red Wings' lone home victory in Game 5, Roy said, "The way I look at it, they have the right to win one game at home. For a team that won 62 games in the regular season, I guess they certainly could win one game."