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NET ADVANTAGE // Roy _ the coolest goaltender on ice

On the eve of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, the cool, calm, collected, confident _ and extremely cocky _ Colorado goaltender is worried.

If he wins his third Stanley Cup by beating the Florida Panthers, Patrick Roy does not think the Bear Lakes Golf Course in West Palm Beach will cancel his membership but he's worried about losing his friend.

"But maybe it will be tough to find some friends to play golf with," he said. "Maybe I'll go to Tampa Bay. "Maybe I'll lose friends in Florida. But with money you can buy friends, so I'll be okay."

The large contingent of media at McNichols Arena laughed.

Roy (pronounced WAH) doesn't get nervous in June. He gets excited.

The 30-year-old is making his fourth appearance in the finals. The Montreal Canadiens lost in 1989. But he sipped from the Cup twice _ as a rookie in 1986 and as a veteran in 1993, winning 10 consecutive games in overtime. In both victorious years, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.

"Some people play well under pressure and some don't," said Mike Keane, a teammate of Roy in Montreal and now in Colorado. "He's one of those guys who thrives under pressure. That's what separates superstars from the average player. Those guys want to be the one with the ball in their hands in the last seconds of a tight game. They want to be the hero."

Roy was a hero in Montreal. The boy who ironically grew up in Quebec City (the former home of the Nordiques who relocated last summer to Denver) was drafted in 1984 by the Canadiens in the fourth round (51st overall). He played 10 full seasons, winning the Vezina Trophy three times.

But the hero was horrible on Dec. 2 in Montreal. Detroit scored nine times againsthim. Roy finally was pulled, but the damage to his psyche and ego was done.

Roy stormed to the bench, walked past coach Mario Tremblay and told club president Ron Corey he had played his last game in Montreal. Four days later, he was on his way to Denver with team captain Keane for goalie Jocelyn Thibault.

"It's over. Montreal is over," Roy said Monday. "What I have to say about that is I guess every athlete has pride. You want to show that you still are able to help your team go far in the playoffs. That was the best thing to happen right now. I'm here. The only thing I regret about Montreal is the way it ended up. I truly believe I deserved better. But it was a turn for me."

Roy wasn't sure if the turn would lead to success or the biggest mistake of his life.

Now Roy says: "Montreal did me a favor."

When he first arrived, few in the city knew why there was such a hubbub about Roy. Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway wondered in a TV interview, "Why doesn't he pronounce his name Roy, rhyming with toy?"

Roy, who couldn't leave his house in hockey-crazed Montreal without getting hounded for autographs, liked his anonymity in the new city. But it didn't last long.

But Roy said he is not looking for recognition. "What I'm looking for is a ring. Winning the Stanley Cup. That's why I loved Montreal. Every year, even if we didn't have the best team in the league, we knew we could compete and be a team that could surprise and go far in the playoffs. That's why I'm happy to be here. Same thing."

Only here, Roy doesn't have the same burden of trying to carry the Avalanche on his shoulders the way he did in Montreal in 1993. He has a better supporting cast. Heck, Roy said, "Joe Sakic is our MVP, so far."

But this is Roy's time of year. He's so calm that during an overtime in a finals game against Los Angeles in 1993, he winked at Kings forward Tomas Sandstrom.

"Obviously, he's an elite goaltender that's very experienced in these situations," said Florida captain Brian Skrudland, who played with Roy. "He's got two Stanley Cup rings _ in his ears. One in each ear, I guess, from the Chicago series. He probably wants a third one really badly to go somewhere else."

The crowd of reporters laughed again. The rings in the ears was reference to Roy's back-and-forth jabs with Chicago's Jeremy Roenick during the second round. Roenick had said Roy's athletic supporter probably was in the rafters of Chicago Stadium after he had beaten him badly on a breakaway. Roy's response was that he couldn't hear Roenick because his ears were blocked with his Stanley Cup rings.

Roy hasn't been Mr. Invincible during these playoffs. But he's bounced back from every bad outing with a spectacular one. He's 12-6 with a 2.41 goals-against and .904 save percentage.

"We've got to get a lot of shots on him and create some traffic, obviously," Skrudland said. "I know Patrick is like our goaltender, anything he sees he's going to stop. We're going to shoot often. Hopefully, that's the recipe for scoring some goals."