Open Mike Night - 3/23/09
As luck would have it, St. Patrick’s Day would end up being Martin Brodeur’s night. New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur further cemented his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame by capturing the all-time NHL wins record for goalies by notching number 552 on March 17th versus Chicago. The previous mark was held by St. Patrick himself, Montreal and Colorado great Patrick Roy.
The great number 30 made, fittingly, 30 saves to clinch the historic mark and the 3-2 win for the Devils. Despite a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the top-ranked Bruins, Marty has gone 15-4-2 in 21 games this year with a 2.05 GAA, .925 save pct. and five shutouts. Here’s hoping for another Vezina Trophy for him, especially because there’s not really any strong candidates out there (save for Steve Mason and Tomas Vokoun). However, he’s only likely to hit the 30 game plateau which might not be enough to get a nomination (although Miikka Kiprusoff of a couple years ago may say differently).
However, it’s not about this year – it’s about all-time and where Brodeur ranks and what he has accomplished.
Goaltenders like Patrick Roy, who made the butterfly cool, and the acrobatic Dominik Hasek are known to have revolutionized the position – while maintaining success at both ends of the goaltending spectrum. I find, though, that Brodeur doesn’t get the credit for revolutionizing the position because he’s not one extreme or another. He’s a hybrid, not of skill and luck though. It’s a hearty mix of skill and intelligence.
Goaltending success to me isn’t measured in wins, it’s not measured in goals against averages or save percentages, it’s not even measured in championships. I’m not sure if I can quantify it or qualify it but I know it when I see it and I’ve never seen anyone have more of “it” than Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur at a young age left a goaltending school that tried to force feed the butterfly style to him. Essentially dropping to your knees and taking up as much room as you can in the net and, for some goalies, hoping the puck hits you. Brodeur didn’t buy what they were selling and for good reason. He combines a little bit of everything and the end result is outstanding – dare I say, the best ever?
There hasn’t been and never will be enough goalies in the league that play the game like Brodeur. To be quite candid, there’s just too many butterfly goalies in the league that rely on the size of their equipment to get by. See (and listen at 1:15) this overly-padded goalie that disrespected the game so much that he was awarded a Conn Smythe for his troubles. Meanwhile, Hasek look-a-likes have come and gone (or will soon be gone) like Roman Cechmanek and the newest flavor of the month, Tim Thomas. A goalie that begs the question, why don’t shooters watch more film of the goalies they go against? Goalies keep a book on certain players’ moves in the shootouts, why not vice versa? There might not be another Hasek, there might not be another Roy, but there certainly will not be another Brodeur.
Maybe I’m being too hard on the rest of the group, I’m from New Jersey, I’ve seen Martin Brodeur live and on television more than any other goalie. He’s worth the price of every admission I’ve ever paid at the Continental Airlines Arena and the newly-founded Prudential Center. I’ve quickly grown tired of these pure butterfly goalies that really seem to depend on luck and percentages more than reflexes and good ol’ fashion athleticism. I also disapprove of the inconsistency that comes with wacky, uncontrollable goalies like Hurricanes prospect Mike Murphy and Bruins netminder Tim Thomas – a goalie who can do a backflip and rob a scorer with a save that only a handful of goalies could make and then give up multiple goals from center in his very short time in the league. It’s an even less reliable option than a butterfly goalie, despite the flash and dash.
Another attribute that is overlooked is smarts. Brodeur is the smartest player to ever lace them up, says this more-than-casual observer. Everything with Brodeur is calculated, blocker saves are passes, pad saves are outlets, and that’s not even including his tremendous skills with the stick. Skills that were so good he had a rule made in his honor.
I hope that most of the young goalies out there study Brodeur’s game, he’s playing the position correctly, he’s always the most valuable player to his team because he does everything so well. I don’t mean slobber all over a player that has routinely denied my favorite team wins in the past but despite all his accolades, he’s still under-appreciated because of the “trap” and because Stevens and Niedermayer and all that noise. Did it help? Yes. But all those things are gone and he’s not showing any signs of decline – none.
Goalie stats are all the rage today, and while Steve Mason’s nine shutouts under Ken Hitchcock are nice and Tim Thomas’ GAA and save pct. under Claude Julien are neat, the position goes far beyond a piece of paper. For any game, in any situation, at any time, I’ll take the goalie that held Wayne Gretzky to under a point-per-game against him in his career, the goalie that stopped Steve Yzerman from scoring against him in each of their 12 head-to-head regular season games.
I never got a chance to see the Terry Sawchuk’s or Vladislav Tretiak’s of yesteryear, and while I rue that fact, I can confidently say that Martin Brodeur is the best goalie I’ve ever had the fortune of watching. Maybe my case here isn’t convincing, or even coherent, but it’s just too indescribable. And since I’m teetering dangerously close to a quote by late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart as well as my self-imposed one-thousand word cap, I’ll call it an evening.