Madden shows off his two-way talent

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No-nonsense New Jersey Devils coach Pat Burns hates comparisons. He doesn't think it's fair to compare one player to another. So, he won't compare John Madden to any of the other players he's coached in his long career.

But Burns will say this about Madden: "He's a great, great two-way player."

That's definitely high praise from Burns, a tough ex-Montreal cop who likes to keep his thoughts to himself. Madden earned those words with another sterling defensive performance in the Devils' first-round series win over the Bruins.

Madden, the 2001 Selke Trophy winner, was assigned the task of shutting down Jumbo Joe Thornton, the Bruins' 6-foot-4, 220-pound All-Star center. Thornton, 23, entered the series like a lion, coming off a career-best 101-point regular season, which placed him third on the league's scoring list (behind Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund).

Despite giving up five inches and 30 pounds in the head-to-head matchup, Madden turned the lion into a lamb. Thornton finished with just one goal and one assist in the series.

"A lot of people didn't think I would do so well against him," Madden said. "So it was kind of nice to prove them wrong."

Madden, who received back-side help from defenseman Scott Stevens in the duel with Thornton, also contributed quite a bit at the other end of the rink. In fact, Madden led all scorers in the series with eight points (two goals, six assists). He scored a goal and dished out two assists in the series' clinching 3-0 win on Thursday in New Jersey.

"He (Madden) was unbelievable in the series," said right wing Jamie Langenbrunner, who scored a team-best five goals in the series. "He made it real hard on one of the best players in the league, and he scored a couple of huge goals for us. He was great."

Unlike Burns, Langenbrunner doesn't mind making comparisons. He likens Madden to his former Dallas Stars teammate Guy Carbonneau.

"Dog (Madden's nickname is 'Mad Dog') plays a similar role to the one Carbo (Carbonneau) played in Dallas," said Langenbrunner, who was with the Stars when they were beaten by the Devils in the 2000 Stanley Cup Final. "Neither one of them was the biggest or the fastest, but both guys found a way to get the job done.

"They're both very smart players, who aren't too physical," Langenbrunner added. "And they both think the game real well."

The comparison to the former Canadiens, Blues and Stars center would sit well with Madden, who spent time as a teenager studying Carbonneau's game. Aware of his physical limitations, Madden modeled his game after two-way guys like Carbonneau.

Now, with one series down and three to go to get to another Stanley Cup, the Devils will rest and wait for their next opponent. It could be the Lightning or the Leafs or the Flyers.

So Vinny Lecavalier or Mats Sundin or Jeremy Roenick, get ready to see a lot of Madden. He'll be waiting for one of you.

E.J. Hradek writes hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.