Brodeur on the cusp of hockey immortality

It’s almost too perfect. Kinda Hollywood, in fact.

What looked like a lost season for Martin Brodeur can still have a storybook ending.

The resume already is impressive: Four Vezina Trophies, three Stanley Cups, Olympic gold, World championships. And now he’s approaching the cusp of one of hockey’s most hallowed records for goaltenders, the first of two he will eventually own.

On Saturday night, Brodeur will try to tie Patrick Roy’s all-time record of 551 regular-season wins as the New Jersey Devils take on the Montreal Canadiens.

Oh, and Brodeur gets his first crack at that record in his hometown. And against the team Roy starred for over the first 11-plus seasons of his illustrious career.

“It just adds to the story. You can’t ask for a better script,” Brodeur said Thursday after making 26 saves in an easy 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. “Everything happens for a reason. I just want to be able to put this all behind me. It feels good to be back playing and to get a chance like this.”

Just that he’s reached this point is remarkable. On Nov. 1, the seven-time 40-game winner played fewer then 27 minutes in a victory over the Atlanta Thrashers before leaving with what looked like a harmless injury.

Of course it was harmless. From 1997 through 2008, Brodeur was a workhorse, averaging 73 games a season. Sure, there was the one game missed in 2000 due to a groin injury, and the six games he was sidelined in 2005 to a sprained right knee. But the closest thing to Superman was the guy with the red jersey and the No. 30 on his back.

So when it was revealed he had a torn biceps tendon – an injury requiring surgery and one that would keep him out 50 games – it was not only thought the Devils’ season was shot, Brodeur’s chase of Roy’s record would have to wait until early next season.

Perhaps Superman thought … or knew … better.

He returned on Feb. 26, and stopped all 24 shots to blank the Colorado Avalanche. After an easy win over the Florida Panthers, Brodeur made 27 saves for his 100th shutout, a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

“My expectations weren't that big. I just wanted to go out and feel good and be second nature again playing hockey,” the 36-year-old Brodeur said. “It's been for so long that I haven't played games, I was a little worried how I was going to feel in there.

“After the first game, that was pretty tough. Second and third game, I just felt natural in there. I felt that I belonged, you know, in the games and stuff.”

In seven starts since coming back, Brodeur is 6-1-0 with a 2.08 goals-against average, a figure inflated because he permitted six goals in a loss to the league-worst New York Islanders on Saturday.

Eclipsing the wins record will happen, but don’t put it past Brodeur to break a longer-standing record this season. With four more shutouts, Terry Sawchuk’s career record of 103 will fall by the wayside as well.

Roy and Sawchuk, whose career spanned four decades, are Hall of Famers. Brodeur isn’t quite ready to have his name uttered in the same breath yet.

“It's never comfortable to hear that. When people tell you stuff like that, you don't like to believe it,” Brodeur said. “I think I'm going to go and try to accomplish some pretty big milestones or establish some records. I mean, it's normal that people will talk about it.

“But I don't think as an athlete you can see yourself like that. I think if you do, it's not the right way to approach who you are, where you want to be. I think you really have to stay humble when these things are approaching.”

Brodeur is 34-15-0 with five ties, eight shutouts and a 1.80 GAA in his career against his hometown team. He’s also permitted 10 goals while dropping three straight against the Habs.

"It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere, but I expect that there," Brodeur said. "I'll try to be the same.”

No comments: