There was to be no miracle comeback from an 0-3 series deficit in the cards for the New Jersey Devils, as the Los Angeles Kings took care of business and closed out the Devils 6-1 Monday night to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
After performing as if it were the late-90's all over again in getting the Devils back into a series in which they rapidly fell behind, 3-0, New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur pulled N.J. back into the mix again by stopping 46 of 48 shots in games 4 and 5.
But it wasn't meant to be as L.A. clinched the Cup in the 6-1 rout.
One of the truly great moments of the night was when Brodeur and L.A. Conn Smythe-winning netminder Jonathan Quick shook hands in the line after the series was clinched. Brodeur said Quick told him he can't retire, the game wouldn't be the same without him.
Sure, the game wouldn't be the same without possibly the greatest goalie to ever strap on the pads, but it's even harder to imagine the Devils without Brodeur, New Jersey's number one man between the pipes since the 1993-94 season.
He has played in 1,191 regular season NHL games, notching 656 wins and 119 shutouts in a truly amazing, first-ballot Hall-of-Fame career.
The legendary backstop turned 40 last month, and his six-year, $31.2 million ($5.2 million annually) contract expired. Many have speculated that he would retire following the 2012 postseason, as his numbers have been average over that stretch -- 54-46-7 with nine shutouts.
Brodeur had won just five playoff contests over the last three springs, in which the Devils were knocked out in the first-round in each.
But during the just completed playoffs, the three time Cup-winner seemingly turned back the hands of time. He went 14-9 with three shutouts, a 2.12 goals-against average, and .917 save percentage.
"This season and this playoff run answered a lot of questions," he said following the Game 6 defeat. "Where my game is at, and I'm really happy to hopefully continue."
While ESPN's Katie Strang said Brodeur needed some time to make his ultimate decision before July 1, the NHL Network said the goaltender confirmed he will be playing next year.
With 19-year-old 2010 third-round draft pick Scott Wedgewood and 20-year-old sixth-round selection Maxime Clermont the top-rated prospects in the Devils' system, and Brodeur the best netminder by far to be available as an unrestricted free agent, there is clearly no one ready to take over the reigns just yet.
Brodeur's backup from last year, Johan Hedberg, just turned 39 years old last month. Like Brodeur, Hedberg is also an UFA.
While it is highly doubtful that both of the elder statesmen will return, but (when the Collective Bargaining Agreement is eventually ratified and hockey is played) Brodeur is the likeliest candidate to be patrolling the New Jersey crease.
General Manager Lou Lamoriello, who was overseeing the club when they plucked Brodeur 20th overall in the 1991 draft, isn't likely to make any dramatic changes with his goalie position in the offseason.
And if the salary cap is increased to the $70.3 million mark as expected, the Devils will have in excess of $28 million with which to work for next season.
That leaves plenty of room for the goalie, as well as re-signing Zach Parise or pieces with which to replace the high-scoring captain. And Brodeur added there is no link to his interest in coming back and whether or not Parise is re-signed.
Brodeur is not only the sentimental choice for Lamoriello, he's also the best available.
If he, indeed, wants to return next year, expect to see Marty Brodeur back in N.J. again.
Where he belongs. Because as Quick said, the game -- as well as the Devils -- just wouldn't be the same without him.