Martin Brodeur has tortured a lot of opposing fan bases in his 20-year NHL career, and at the very top of the list are Philadelphia Flyers fans. I’ve watched Brodeur be dominant for so long, while my own franchise has struggled to find a man to stop the puck. It’s been amazing and incredibly frustrating to watch all these years. So frustrating that I regularly ask myself, “When the hell is Martin Brodeur going to retire?”
Year after year, I keep waiting for the announcement, yet year after year, there is Brodeur back in his familiar red and black, handling the puck like a defenseman and making save after save after save between the pipes.
On Monday night, the 40-year-old Brodeur made 28 saves against the New York Rangers to help his New Jersey Devils even up the NHL Eastern Conference Finals 2-2. It was Brodeur’s fourth victory since he turned 40 on May 6, and he’s currently on his best playoff run in nearly a decade.
The Devils, a team almost no one expected to get even this far despite finishing the regular season with 102 points, are just two victories away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the fifth time since 1995. They have already won three Stanley Cups in that span. And while the coaches and the key skaters have changed over time, there’s been one constant: the man in net.
We all know Brodeur’s career accomplishments: all-time winningest goaltender, most shutouts in NHL history, three-time champion, four-time Vezina Trophy winner (best goaltender), five-time William M. Jennings Trophy winner (fewest goals scored against), Calder Memorial Trophy winner (rookie of the year), nine-time all-star. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of goaltenders any way you slice it.
The most remarkable thing is that he just keeps on going. The past few seasons, it looked like Martin Brodeur may finally be slowing down. His age kept going up as his save percentage began to dip. In fact, after the Flyers finally got the best of Brodeur in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, piling up 15 goals in five games, it seemed as though perhaps the time had finally come for Brodeur as an elite goaltender. He had just a .881 save percentage in that series and saw his workload decreased to just 56 games the following season.
That trend continued this regular season, as Brodeur started in less than 60 games again, ceding more starts to backup Johan Hedberg than he’s been accustomed to. But as the season wore on, Brodeur began to get between the pipes more often, and he was the man leading the Devils into the postseason.
All he’s done since is have his most impressive playoffs in recent memory. Following Monday’s 28-save effort, Brodeur is now 10-5 this postseason with a .923 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average – his best numbers since Jersey’s last Cup team in 2003. He’s been stellar when New Jersey has needed him, coming up with huge saves time and time again. Plus, he still brings that added dimension that most goaltenders today do not, including his current counterpart, the great Henrik Lundqvist: Brodeur can control a game in the trapezoid as well. The man really is another puckhandler out there, a rare goaltender who can render a forecheck impotent by the way he stops and handles the puck behind the net. Just ask the Flyers about that.
Brodeur is as big a reason as any that the Devils are still playing while the much more heavily favored Bruins, Penguins and Flyers have gone fishing.
Sooner rather than later, Father Time will catch up with Brodeur. At 40, his playing days are numbered. Then again, I thought the same thing four, five, six years ago, yet here we are, nearly a decade after his last Stanley Cup, and Martin Brodeur is still going strong. It’s amazing, and as a Flyers fan, I cannot wait for it to end.
When the hell is Martin Brodeur going to retire? It won’t be tonight, as Brodeur tries to notch yet another victory and pull the Devils to within a game of the Stanley Cup Final. But whenever it is, it won’t be soon enough for every other fanbase in the NHL.