In your world or mine, a 40-year-old goalie nine years removed from his last Stanley Cup is probably wearing a suit and gabbing in between periods for one of the TV networks.
Or he might be coaching kid netminders somewhere, imparting words of wisdom about how positioning is everything and teaching the art of being stingy with rebounds.
Not in Martin Brodeur’s world.
In Marty’s World, the 40-year-old goalie is leading in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and already being credited with saving not only pucks, but his team’s bacon.
OK, so Marty Brodeur isn’t 40—yet. He turns it on Sunday.
Not that you’d know it with the way he’s playing these days.
Brodeur has his New Jersey Devils in front of the favored Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The latest win was an overtime thriller on Thursday night in Jersey. Brodeur was key in killing off two Flyers power plays in the extra session, enabling the Devils to stay alive long enough to pop in the winning goal with less than three minutes to play in the fourth period.
Brodeur is 17 years removed from the first of his three Cups, which he won over the heavily favored Red Wings in a four-game sweep—a series in which New Jersey employed their infamous trap, and Brodeur’s goaltending allowed the mighty Wings just seven goals scored in four games.
Marty was 23 back then, and at the time, he was almost more recognized for being the son of Denis Brodeur, a world-class hockey photographer whose work—mostly shot at the Montreal Forum—can be found in coffee table books the world over.
You know how many goalies have come and gone from the NHL since 1995?
I don’t, either, but it’s too many to keep track of.
Brodeur is closing in on playing in his 200th playoff game. Through Thursday’s contest, he’s logged close to 12,000 minutes between the pipes in the postseason alone. That’s 200 hours, or over eight full days of kicking, sprawling, butterflying, stretching, reaching and smothering—when the stakes have been the highest.
And here’s the thing: Marty Brodeur looks, pretty much, the same today as he did when he broke into the NHL in the 1991-92 season as a 19-year-old.
Still has the boyish, baby face. Still has the bright eyes. Still has most of his hair.
And judging by his numbers for this season, Brodeur still has the cat-like quickness, the reliable glove and the uncanny knack for placing his body between the shooter and the net, just in time.
Brodeur had 31 wins, a 2.41 GAA, three shutouts and a fine .908 save percentage in his 19th NHL season.
Oh, and about those shutouts.
There was a time, when talking about the seemingly unbreakable records in pro sports, you tossed Terry Sawchuk’s 103 shutouts into the mix. Given the relatively short careers of the modern-day goalie, Sawchuk’s shutout mark appeared untouchable.
For a while.
Then this baby-faced kid from Montreal won another Stanley Cup in 2000, then another in 2003, and all of a sudden, it was like you blinked and the 23-year-old, first-time Cup winner was a grizzled, three-time champion hoarding shutouts like a squirrel does nuts.
Closer and closer, Brodeur edged toward Sawchuk, who was widely regarded as the greatest goalie in NHL history.
For a while.
Then Brodeur passed Sawchuk, in 2009, and now, it’s Marty who may never be caught when it comes to pitching shutouts.
Sawchuk was once in a class all his own, in many people’s eyes, when it came to NHL goaltending excellence. Today, it’s maybe even money: Sawchuk or Brodeur? Brodeur or Sawchuk?
This will hit a nerve in Detroit.
It’s a double whammy because Red Wings fans—if you talk to them about it—are still stinging from the Devils’ sweep of their team in the ’95 finals. I think they rue that series more than the seven-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.
So you have that image of the 1995 Devils. Then you suggest that Marty Brodeur is, overall, a better goalie than Red Wings great Sawchuk, and you might as well be telling a six-year-old that there is no Santa Claus.
Yet here Brodeur is, playing some of his best hockey, leading another playoff series that his team is not even supposed to be competitive in, and you start to scurry to the record books.
What is the longest gap between first and last Stanley Cups won by a goalie?
If Brodeur’s Devils survive the Flyers and two more series after that, it will be 17 years between Cup No. 1 and this one for Marty.
I know that’s one too many “ifs” for some people’s liking, but would you feel comfortable betting against Brodeur right now?
And I’ll save you the scurrying; the 17 years would set an NHL record.
The New Jersey Devils, when Brodeur joined them, were, as Wayne Gretzky once famously called them, a Mickey Mouse organization.
The Devils have a lineage laced with infamy. While other franchises were taking slap shots, the Devils’ forefathers were engaging in slapstick.
The family tree begins in 1974 with the advent of the expansion Kansas City Scouts. They were awful, as most expansion teams of the 1970s were. The Scouts lasted two seasons before moving to Colorado and calling themselves the Rockies—some 17 years before the baseball team swiped that name.
The Colorado Rockies were lousy, too. Even the bombastic Don Cherry was brought in to coach them, and it was like Mike Ditka coaching the New Orleans Saints.
The Rockies moved east to New Jersey in 1982.
The New Jersey Devils were about as bad as the Scouts and the Rockies. They tripped over themselves for over 10 years before finally getting it right, personnel-wise.
Just about the same time that Marty Brodeur arrived to be the Devils’ goalie.
Funny, but in the 19 years that Brodeur has manned the net for Jersey, the Devils have missed the playoffs only twice.
If you think that’s a coincidence, then I have some swamp land in—where else—New Jersey to sell you.
The high-scoring Flyers, who play a video-game style of hockey and win games by scores like 8-3, were supposed to run roughshod over the 2012 Devils in this series—even in the playoffs, where if goal-scoring were a commodity, it’d be gold.
But, the Devils are leading the Flyers. They have another game in New Jersey to play before the series shifts to Philadelphia. By that time, the Flyers might trail, three games to one.
And Marty Brodeur will be a little closer to another Stanley Cup.
Not bad for 40 years old, eh?
Marty is no longer known as Denis’ kid; rather, Denis is Marty’s dad.