Brodeur's Playoff Performance Proves He's Still at the Top
If anyone was sick of hearing about Henrik Lundqvist, that person was Martin Brodeur.
Despite Brodeur's glaring playoff success, records he holds, and everything else he has accomplished in his 20-year-long career with the New Jersey Devils, he entered the Eastern Conference Final as the second-best goalie.
All season, the National Hockey League talked up Lundqvist, a player who before this year, never reached an Eastern Conference Final, or had any serious playoff success.
But by the time Brodeur and the Devils reached Lundqvist and the Rangers, they had heard enough.
Heading into the post-season, Lundqvist was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the playoff preview, and in that story, author Brian Cazeneuve raved about all the successes Lundqvist has had.
None more, however, were raved about than 'King Henrik's' record against Brodeur. In fact, Cazeneuve insinuated that Brodeur may as well have been jealous of all that Lundqvist has been able to accomplish in his dashingly successful career.
It was the third time in as many series' that Brodeur, who has won three cups in New Jersey, was portrayed as the second-best goalie in the series. He outplayed both Jose Theodore and Scott Clemensen in the opening series against the Florida Panthers to help New Jersey advance to the Eastern Conference semi-final.
There, Brodeur out-worked Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, and the Devils washed down the Flyers -- who were ahead of them for the entire season in the standings -- in five games.
So, when the Rangers squeaked past the Washington Capitals in game seven to advance to the Eastern Conference Final, the Devils were ready.
Even after Lundqvist got shutouts in games one and three, the Devils never panicked. And neither did Brodeur.
After game three, everything changed.
Once the Devils were able to get pucks to the net against Lundqvist, he lost his composure.
Over games four, five, and six, Lundqvist gave up goals that he didn't earlier in the year. As the entire NHL world watched, the Rangers season, and Lundqvist's unbelievable goaltending, were slipping away.
In overtime of game six, as many might forget, it was the Rangers who nearly scored first. They had a chance on Brodeur, but he turned it away. Less than half a minute later, Adam Henrique pumped home the goal that Devils fans will remember for the rest of their lives.
More-so, Brodeur did what Lundqvist could not -- just as he did all post-season.
Former Devil John Madden nearly ended New Jersey's run long before the Rangers had a chance to. In overtime of game 7 in Sunrise, F.L., Madden had what appeared to be an open net, with a chance to send the Panthers to the second round, after qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Brodeur came back to make a remarkable save, and keep the season alive. An hour or so later, Henrique, again, finished a shot from the slot to send the Devils to the second round.
It was also Brodeur -- not Lundqvist -- who made two diving glove saves that some shortstops in the MLB wouldn't have made in that series against the Rangers. It was also Brodeur who denied Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik with his heel on a play where Gaborik attempted to flip the puck over the sprawling Brodeur.
So when Henrique did finish the play on crease against Lundqvist, few were happier than Brodeur, who got his chance to avenge a loss to the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.
"We've won three Stanley Cups since then. But I think winning against them on this big stage, not just for me, but for the fans of New Jersey, people that are supporting us and always taking a second seat to these guys for whatever reason, now they've got to be pretty happy going to work and going to school and doing all their things that they do," Brodeur said after the series win. "I know from some of the messages that I got during this playoff series, we made a lot of fans real happy right now by beating them."
Brodeur gets it. He's been the most successful goalie in the history of the sport, and he knows what hes doing.
Heading into the playoffs, everyone said the Devils weakness was going to be their goaltending, and that Brodeur couldn't perform at 40.
People also said he couldn't perform at 19.
If Brodeur had played in New York, he would have been personified as the best goalie of all-time, unanimously. He would have been named the 'King' long before Lundqvist was around, and in all likelihood, his three cups would not have been credited to good teams in front of him.
But instead, he was able to embrace a fanbase that has adored him ever since he was drafted, and was able to have the successes that the Rangers haven't had.
Chances are, he'll take that trade-off every single time.
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