Martin The Great on the Brink of History
I completely made up that nickname for Martin Brodeur; I’m well aware of how unoriginal and simple it is. But sometimes simple is better! Brodeur is simply great, and when he’s all done perhaps the greatest goaltender of all time. He has all you can ask for in a goalie: size, smarts, great puckhandling ability, a sharp glove, quickness from side to side, sound positioning skills, durability, and most importantly, proven playoff success. He is known for his unpredictable playing style, as he chose not to adopt the butterfly style- innovated by Vladislav Tretiak and mastered by Patrick Roy- but to combine several different aspects of goalies’ games into an undecipherable hybrid style. This, needless to say, presents a problem for NHL shooters as they try relentlessly to possibly find a glaring weakness in his game. Brodeur told reporters early this morning of his style:
“I just didn’t want to be a guy that played the same way over and over, and I believe butterfly goalies to a certain extent, not anymore but maybe eight years ago, a lot of the goalies were playing the same way over and over…When I grew up, that’s one thing I was scared of, was being predictable when I was playing. I just wanted to make sure that it was a challenge for a shooter to shoot on me and it was a challenge for me to get a shot from a shooter. I saw that as a big challenge, for me to try to change a lot in the way I played.” (Courtesy of Scott Burnside at ESPN.com)
Despite his hybrid style that was unusual for French Canadian goaltenders of the time, he was too good to fall past the first round, where the Devils took him 20th overall. And apparently, today the league still has yet to figure him out. Before a bicep tear this past November cut his season in half, Brodeur was on a streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least 64 starts and 34 wins, and only one goals-against average above 2.34, an absolutely remarkable run of consistency for Brodeur and the Devils. New Jersey proved this season that their defense-first system is one of the best in the league, remaining near the top of the Eastern Conference without Brodeur for much of the season. But make no mistake, Brodeur is the main reason for their great run of success since he arrived in 1992.
After unbelievably never winning any Vezina trophies through 2002, he has rightfully won four of the last six. Perhaps most remarkable about Brodeur’s accomplishments is that he has won three Stanley Cups with the Devils but has not won the Conn Smythe Trophy for Playoff MVP. He could have in 2003, if Jean-Sebastien Giguere had not taken his Mighty Ducks team completely on his back that postseason. Perhaps that’s the icing on the cake for Brodeur’s career, to get one of those to go along with one more Cup. The Devils look very, very good right now and could be considered the favorite to come out of the East.
But for right now, Brodeur is on the verge of passing Patrick Roy for first all-time in wins at the NHL level. He won the 551st game of his career to tie Roy this past Saturday:
One thing Brodeur can say he has over Roy is that he’s won every single game of his career with the same team. He may never have the Conn Smythes Roy has, but he will go down in history as the ultimate model of consistency and prolificacy with a single franchise. Here’s a rare video of Brodeur showing his amazing puck-handling skills as he scores an empty-net goal against Montreal:
Brodeur is also inching closer to Terry Sawchuk’s all-time shutouts record of 103, with 100 of his own. That record should probably belong to Brodeur by the time he hangs up his skates. In honor of his 100th, Sportscenter recently ran a top 10 segment devoted entirely to him:
Brodeur’s frustration from that #1 moment caused the NHL to instill the “Avery Rule” against intentionally using the stick or gloves to block the view of the netminder. That might have been the only time this man ever actually got rattled. But he can rest assured there will be no tactics of the same kind this year, as he tries to win another Stanley Cup with the Devils. And I say “another” instead of “one more,” because I feel Brodeur has at least three more solid seasons in him. And there’s no real reason to doubt this NHL legend can play well into his 40s. The next win will be only the latest instance of Martin the Great rewriting the NHL record books.
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