Putting Martin Brodeur‘s career in perspective, it could be said that he is, quite simply, the Derek Jeter of hockey.
Like the Yankees icon, the Devils‘ goaltender was the most admirable face of his franchise and the best at his business.
It has been my very good fortune to have covered Marty from his rookie season through his retirement.
That includes three Stanley Cups and a near fourth in 2001 and 2012; not to mention the night he actually scored a goal against Montreal in the playoffs.
The following are my personal choices of what I call, “Brodeur’s Best,” with The Maven’s comments attached:
MAR. 26, 1992: New Jersey defeats Boston at the Meadowlands, 4-2, and Marty picks up the win in his very first career start, stopping 24 shots.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: The Kid is batting 1.000, but he’s only one-for-one and we still didn’t know much about him. Nevertheless, a good start is a good start and we’ll see what happens in the future.
OCT. 20, 1993: The Devils beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim at Brendan Byrne Arena, 4-0, and Brodeur stops all 17 shots to earn his first career shutout.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Now he’s cooking! The shutout is a portent of things to come in his first rookie year, but I still wanted more proof that Marty had the “goods.”
APR. 27, 1994: Despite falling to the Sabres in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in Buffalo, 1-0, on a goal by Dave Hannan, rookie Brodeur (who would go on to win the Calder Trophy) proved he could stand toe to toe with Sabres netminder Dominik Hasek. A scoreless game through six periods, Brodeur stopped 49 shots in defeat and Hasek stopped all 70 he faced. With the series knotted up at three games apiece, the Devils took Game 7 in New Jersey, 2-1, on April 29.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: I was in Buffalo for this classic. Matter of fact, I was staring straight ahead by the glass when Dave Hannan beat Marty. What a blow. Just earlier, Bobby Carpenter looked like he had the winner, but Hasek said no. By this time I was convinced that the Devils had a star in the making, but wasn’t so sure if he would be a “superstar.”
MAY 12, 1995: Marty makes 38 saves to shut out the Bruins, 1-0, at Brendan Byrne Arena. It was his third shutout of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and the Devils would go on to win the series in five games.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: This was the first step on the ladder leading to the Stanley Cup. Beating Boston was a huge upset, but with more to come in the second and third rounds against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
JUN. 13, 1995: Brodeur and the Devils defeat the Atlantic Division-winning — and heavily favored — Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, in New Jersey to win their first Eastern Conference Championship.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Not only do I remember Marty’s performance but when I headed into the Devils’ dressing room to interview him I was preceded by Devils owner Dr. John McMullen and his pet dog, a Labrador Retriever named Bubba. I interviewed Dr. Mac before “Mr. Goalie.”
JUN. 17, 1995: The Red Wings were a heavy favorite heading into their Stanley Cup meeting with the upstart Devils, but New Jersey gave Detroit something to think about right away. Brodeur made 16 saves and New Jersey defeated Detroit, 2-1, at Joe Louis Arena.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: What I’ll never forget is how calm Marty was facing this heavily favored club. Not only that, he was even cool and collected when one of the famed octopi of Detroit landed in his crease. As it happened, Marty lasted a lot longer than the octopus.
JUN. 20, 1995: Back in Detroit for Game 2, Red Wings fans felt confident that Game 1 was an aberration. Brodeur and the Devils had other ideas. Marty stopped 16 shots and the Devils doubled-up the Wings, 4-2 and were headed to the Meadowlands with a 2-0 advantage.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: This clearly established an overlooked fact: Brodeur’s goaltending was better than Mike Vernon’s at the other end. Game 2 was a turning point in the series.
JUN. 24, 1995: After defeating Detroit, 5-2, in New Jersey, Brodeur and the Devils completed a sweep against the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was the first Stanley Cup victory for the Devils as well as Brodeur.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: When the Red Wings went ahead early in the game it looked like a major — and scary — comeback might be in the works. But Marty got his game together and proved this time that “superstar” could be attached to his resume.
APR. 17, 1997: Marty registers his first career goal, shooting and scoring on an empty net to finalize a 5-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in New Jersey. The Devils would go on to win the series in five games, but lost to the Rangers in the Conference Semifinals. Marty finished the ’96-97 regular season with a league-leading 1.88 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, the highest of his career.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: By this time we knew that Brodeur was a master stick-handler, but nobody expected the goal as he took aim for the shot at the other end of the rink. To this day, I do a double-take when I see the replay.
MAY 26, 2000: After falling behind the Flyers three games to one in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils staged a furious comeback. Marty held the Flyers to three goals in the last three games of the series, including a 26-save performance in Game 7 in Philadelphia. Patrik Elias’ late third-period goal gave the Devils a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish, and New Jersey was headed back to the Stanley Cup Finals. This was the first and — so far — only time a team had overcome a 3-1 deficit in a Conference Finals.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Once again it was Brodeur’s netminding that made the difference, out-dueling his Flyers counterpart, Brian Boucher.
JUN. 10, 2000: The Devils had their hearts broken in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Continental Airlines Arena, losing 1-0 in triple-overtime on a goal by Mike Modano. Marty showed his signature mental toughness in Game 6, registering 30 saves and beating the Stars, 2-1, in double-overtime in Dallas. Jason Arnott‘s game-winning goal gave New Jersey its second Stanley Cup.
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MAVEN’S RAVIN’: I was there in Dallas and frankly was astonished watching Marty stop Bret Hull and assorted members of the Stars in the overtimes. For my money, he never played a better playoff game.
MAY 22, 2001: New Jersey defeats Pittsburgh, 4-2, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Continental Airlines Arena to advance to their third Stanley Cup Finals. Brodeur, coming off back-to-back shutouts in Games 3 and 4, made 18 saves to earn the win.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: By this time Marty had lifted himself to the elite status of goaltenders, sharing the pinnacle with Hasek and Patrick Roy.
FEB. 24, 2002: Brodeur makes 31 saves and Team Canada defeats Team USA in Provo, Utah, 5-2, to win Olympic Gold.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Many observers questioned Brodeur’s ability to lead the Canadian Olympians to a Gold, but his convincing victory over Uncle Sam’s Skaters erased any doubt. At this point in time, he had reached his career peak in terms of age and quality of play.
MAY 23, 2003: The Devils seemed to have the 2002-03 Eastern Conference Finals in hand, leading the Ottawa Senators three games to one. However, New Jersey lost two straight, including an overtime defeat in Game 6 at the Meadowlands. Facing a hostile crowd in Ottawa for Game 7, Brodeur calmly made 24 saves and Jeff Friesen’s late third-period goal won it for the Devils, 3-2, sending New Jersey back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the fourth time.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: How well I recall that all of Ottawa thought this series was in the bag, but it was Brodeur who bagged the Senators, topping his opposite Patrick Lalime.
JUN. 9, 2003: Having already posted shutouts against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Marty decided three times was the charm and blanked the Ducks on 24 shots at the Meadowlands in Game 7. The Devils won, 3-0, and captured their third Stanley Cup in nine years. It was the seventh shutout of the playoffs for Brodeur — an NHL record that still stands.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: If ever a clutch performance was necessary, this one was it. Marty had looked shaky at times in Anaheim, and redemption was in order. He showed his cool by doing a Canadian Network interview an hour before game time and then underlined the point by blanking the upstart Ducks.
OCT. 5, 2005: The NHL added the Trapezoid Rule (aka “The Marty Brodeur Rule”) after the lockout, limiting how far goalies could play the puck behind their net. While this was supposed to help slow down Brodeur, whose exceptional puck-handling skills prevented teams from forechecking, it didn’t exactly work out. New Jersey beat Pittsburgh in the Meadowlands, 5-1, and Brodeur stopped 36 shots in his first Trapezoidian start.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: The league was foolish to design a rule for the purpose of hampering the NHL’s most versatile goaltender. It was a bad decision then, and the Trapezoid remains a dubious part of the game. Nevertheless, Marty continued to excel.
APR. 29, 2006: Brodeur and the scorching-hot Devils beat the Rangers, 4-2, in Madison Square Garden to complete a four-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals sweep. Marty stopped 31 shots to oust the Rangers from the playoffs for the first time in his career.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: This was the ultimate revenge win over the Blueshirts and Henrik Lundqvist, who had been — and would continue to be — one of the most worthy of Brodeur’s rivals.
APR. 5, 2007: New Jersey defeats Philadelphia, 3-2, in Philly. For Brodeur, this marked win number 48 of the regular season — a new NHL record. The previous record of 47 had been held, coincidentally, by Flyers’ goaltender Bernie Parent since the 1973-74 season. Roberto Luongo, in his first season with Vancouver, also tied Parent with 47 wins in ’06-07. For his efforts, Marty was awarded his third Vezina Trophy. He was presented with his final Vezina the following year, winning the award four times in five seasons.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: More than anything, Marty’s career was all about winning. He would continue to make that point over and over again.
APR. 13, 2008: During Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at The Garden, Rangers forward Sean Avery turned his attention away from the play and did everything he could to distract Brodeur, including wildly flailing his arms. Avery scored moments later to give the Rangers a brief lead, one they would let slip away before losing to the Devils in overtime, 4-3. Due to Avery’s questionable tactics, which weren’t technically illegal, the NHL decided to step in and make a change by outlawing Avery’s practices for good.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Once again — only in a totally different realm — Brodeur proves the catalyst for another rule change. Only this time, the co-producer was a Ranger. This bizarre episode, which I covered, remains one of the most unusual of my career.
MAR. 17, 2009: Marty makes 30 saves as the Devils edged Chicago, 3-2, at the Prudential Center. The win gave Brodeur 552 regular season victories, passing Patrick Roy’s mark of 551, making him the winningest goaltender in NHL history. Marty would finish with 691 wins when all was said and done.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: This qualifies Marty for the title “Mr. Goalie,” which had been reserved for one other puck-stopper in NHL history, and that was Hall of Famer Glenn Hall, who played 502 consecutive games without a mask. Hall was “Mr. Goalie” of the Original Six, and now Marty became “Mr. Goalie” of the Post-Expansion Era.
DEC. 21, 2009: Brodeur blanks the Penguins in the Steel City with 35 saves to earn career regular season shutout number 104, passing Terry Sawchuk’s “unbreakable” mark of 103. Brodeur retired with 124 shutouts.
MAVEN’S RAVIN: For decades it was believed that the Sawchuk record would never be broken, but Marty’s unquenchable thirst for playing game after game after game inevitably resulted in wins and shutouts. And so another icon was moved to stage left by the irrepressible Brodeur.
JAN. 12, 2010: Marty stops 51 shots, including all three Rangers’ shootout attempts, in a 1-0 victory for the Devils at Madison Square Garden. It was the most saves Brodeur ever registered in a shutout, and his first regular season shutout against the Rangers at The Garden.
MAVEN’S RAVIN: The advent of the shootout enabled Marty to find yet another platform to display his excellence. This one was particularly gratifying for him because it took place at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
APR. 19, 2012: In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Devils stonewall the Florida Panthers, 4-0, at Prudential Center. Brodeur’s 26 saves gave him career playoff shutout number 24 — the most all-time. Patrick Roy was the previous record-holder with 23.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: The Panthers were a lot tougher than many realize, and that series went seven games. Marty’s shutout was a pivotal series-turner in the Devils’ direction.
MAY 16, 2012: During Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers, Brodeur made an unbelievable right leg “scorpion” save against Marian Gaborik that will live on in the minds of Devils fans — and Rangers fans — forever. Brodeur called the save, “lucky,” but we all know better. It was the number one play on SportsCenter’s Top Ten for weeks. The Devils held on to beat the Rangers, 3-2, at The Garden, evening their series at one game apiece.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Some say a one-on-one, as in the shootout, is roughly equivalent to a battle between a poisonous snake and a mongoose; in other words, you never know who is going to win the battle. In this case, Marty vs. Marian was a classic, and Brodeur’s save should have been immortalized in song. What’s more, it was the springboard for an amazing “Battle of the Hudson.”
May 25, 2012: The Devils and Rangers met for Game 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, eventually won by New Jersey on Adam Henrique’s goal 1:03 into overtime (“Henrique! It’s over!”). Brodeur stopped 33 shots, helping to eliminate the Rangers from the playoffs and advance to his fifth Stanley Cup Finals — 18 years to the day that Mark Messier made his famous guarantee back in the Spring of ’94.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Some Devils fans claim that — apart from Stanley Cup Playoff victories — this was the tastiest triumph of all. And no matter how you shake it — this was an upset win at that — it catapulted New Jersey into the Stanley Cup Final.
Apr. 13, 2014: New Jersey edges Boston in Newark, 3-2, and Marty makes 16 saves to record his 688th victory — his last as a Devil.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: As the bromide goes, “all good things must come to an end,” and this was Marty putting a stamp on his immortal career as a Devil — THE Devil.