NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- Ken Dryden always said that the most wonderful time to be a goaltender in the NHL was Stanley Cup playoff time.
Certainly it is wonderful to watch a sizzling goalie stand up to one of the mightiest attacks in hockey -- unless you're the New York Rangers and you've taken 56 shots, scored only two goals and lost Game 1, in a paranoid city where the Stanley Cup hasn't been won since 1940.
But even New York fans couldn't help being dazzled by Vancouver goaltender Kirk McLean and his 52-save performance in Game 1, which turned into a 3-2 overtime victory for the Canucks.
Game 2 of this best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals series is tonight at 8:08.
McLean's opening-night performance was the most dynamic one-game Stanley Cup goaltending exhibition since Dryden himself, as a Montreal Canadiens rookie in Game 1 of the 1971 finals, made 56 saves against the Chicago Black Hawks in a losing, double overtime effort.
"Sometimes I think too much is made of statistics," McLean said yesterday. "Sometimes, they don't mean exactly what it looks like they say. And sometimes, hot goaltenders aren't enough."
Dominik Hasek (1.61 goals-against average) wasn't enough to keep Buffalo in the playoffs. And Martin Brodeur (1.95) couldn't keep New Jersey there.
But McLean, with his 2.07 playoff GAA, is still playing and playing better than ever, though he is slow to take the credit.
"I haven't done anything any different," he said. "Things didn't go the way I wanted them to in the regular season, but the bottom line is winning. And now, when it matters the most, things seem to be bouncing for me.
"But it's the team that's really different. In my mind, we're two totally different teams. The one that played most of the season and the one that's playing now."
Yesterday, Vancouver coach Pat Quinn pointed a straight finger at his offensive players and blamed them for McLean's 23-26-3 record, his 2.99 GAA and the club's seventh-place finish in the Western Conference.
"Kirk was double-crossed by a lot of his teammates," said Quinn. "Our papers in Canada are flooded daily with who's making what. They're filled with dollar signs and stories about private lives and every day they're under the microscope. Players get focused on points and stats, because players get paid based on their offensive production.
"It was a very difficult job to get the message across that this is a two-way game and if they didn't play two ways, they weren't going to be around to get paid at all.
"Pavel [Bure], [Geoff] Courtnall, [Greg] Adams, they're scorers, but they can contribute the other way. I wasn't sure we had the type of group who would subjugate their own statistics for the team concept."
Quinn says it was February before the Canucks started to buy the team concept. And in March as the trading deadline approached, he acquired Bret Hedican, Jeff Brown and Nathan Lafayette, three young players who brought the kind of attitude Quinn was searching for.
"But [if not] for Kirk Tuesday night, there wouldn't have been a game for us to win," said Quinn. "He kept us in it and then, in overtime, our team made the most of the opportunity he gave us."