NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 09: Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils looks on during Game Five of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings at the Prudential Center on June 9, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Why the Devils' legendary netminder may be the perfect leader on the Devils route to a comeback.
In the third period, Martin Brodeur found himself under siege for what must have been the hundredth, or thousandth time in his career. He fought for his crease, and punches were thrown, meanwhile the Kings' Jeff Carter tugged at the jersey from his neck and pulled it over his head.
Brodeur rose to his feet, and as if he was playing a game of peek-a-boo, quickly lowered the sweater to reveal the classic Brodeur smile. The one you've seen at his highest high, and his lowest lows (remember him grinning after he dropped his stick to let in a goal from center during the 2003 Finals?). The one that's showing off more than ever, now that the Devils -- while still facing elimination -- are halfway to coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Finals, and becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since 1942.
So how does Brodeur explain his reaction to the play? A joke, naturally. "I was just tired," he told the media, who were eating out of the palm of his hand after the game.
The truth is, while Brodeur may appear tired after games -- as one would imagine a 40-year old would -- he's still as agile and athletic as ever. Despite a few jokes regarding his weight over the year -- most legendarily Sean Avery calling him "fatso" after a 2008 playoff series -- there can be no doubt that his versatility and athleticism are second to none among goaltenders. That was glaringly obvious during Game 5 when Jonathan Quick made a mistake you would never see Brodeur make to give Zach Parise the game's first goal.
While the Devils blocked more shots than the Kings, it was clear the 40-year old had outplayed yet another up and coming goalie in Game 6, as he had in Game 5, and perhaps at some point in either of the toss-up early games at Prudential Center that New Jersey lost in overtime. It has been one last renaissance for the greatest goaltender of all time, statistically. He has nothing to prove to anyone, and it shows. This post-season, Brodeur's been nothing but smiles and jokes after victories. He'd be the series comic relief if he weren't so impressive.
Maybe it's because Brodeur just knows how to be ready, and let everything else play out for itself. "It's not a difficult thing to get yourself ready for games like that," he said of the two straight elimination games, "now it's been
two in a row." No doubt, after a few years of suspect playoff performances, and even one in this year's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals -- the one that saw him pulled and had everyone on the planet wonder if he was finished -- Brodeur may actually be making a run at the one thing he doesn't have on his mantle, a Conn Smythe Trophy.
That said, Brodeur has won everything else that you can take from this sport. He's made his money, he's set the records, he knows what it takes to win and how to get there. As he puts it, "It drains you a lot. It takes a lot out of you. But it's worth it." If Martin Brodeur has anything left in the tank like he had in Game 5, no one on earth will think his team doesn't have a shot to pull this off.