Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hey Marty, Shut Yer Yap

At times, Martin Brodeur can say too much. That was exactly the case the other day in regards to losing. A term the future Hall Of Fame Devil netminder is unfamiliar with. Unless you count the Devils' being eliminated by the Senators on the final day of the season back in '95-96 which kept them from defending the Cup, Brodeur has never known the feeling of missing the playoffs.

The all-time leader in wins and shutouts is a winner who's accomplished everything this game has to offer. Winner of three Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold and the Vezina awarded to the game's top goalie, he certainly has a lot of pull with the media. A friendly person by nature, he'll always weigh in on any issue. The man for who those silly lines were painted behind the net restricting him and other effective puckmoving types like Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury, is a good source when you want to know what can be done better to improve the game.

In what's been a tumultuous season uncommon to MB30 and a few of his Devil teammates such as Patrik Elias, Colin White, injured Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, the once proud franchise sits in last place with their 37 points trailing Edmonton by one and the Islanders by two. Despite playing much better lately winners of seven of nine including a 2-1 triumph over Ottawa, the Devils bring a 17-30-3 record into the latest Battle of Hudson installment against the Rangers at MSG. Perhaps because of the unenviable position he finds his team in, Brodeur felt obligated to speak about the differences between the two franchises.

‎"We don't like not making the playoffs," Brodeur told NJ.com Wednesday. "It hasn't happened a lot, but (the Rangers) have been through seven years in a row not making the playoffs. We feel fortunate. We had a great run. This has been a ...difficult season but those guys, seven times in a row. That's tough. I just can't imagine that."

While it's true that the Rangers endured a brutal stretch spanning nearly a decade, why is the past relevant to where the bitter rivals currently are? Entering tonight's match, the seventh seeded Blueshirts boast a 29-20-4 mark with 62 points- 25 more than Brodeur's club. Gone are those chaotic days when the club couldn't get out of its own way. With last year's exception that saw an inferior Ranger outfit miss the postseason by a point thanks to a shootout loss to Cup finalist Philadelphia, who promptly bounced the Devils out, the Blueshirts have made the playoffs four out of five seasons since the lockout. Something even the all-time great can't ignore.

"If you miss it by 20 points or miss it by one point, you don't have a chance to win the Stanley Cup," Brodeur pointed out. "The first thing is to make it and right now they're making it."
Correct. Missing by a point last Spring sucked. Especially losing to the hated Flyers with Brian Boucher of all people besting Henrik Lundqvist in the skill competition. True enough, Philly had better shooters. When you're relying on Olli Joke-in-en to keep your season alive, you're screwed. And so, another desperate Ranger push fell short deservedly so even if the shootout is a lousy way to decide such important points. Just ask all the teams Edmonton beat back in '05-06, coming within a game of beating the Hurricanes for Lord Stanley.

For Brodeur who'll soon have to make an important decision on his future, it's got to kill him that his team put themselves behind the eight ball. Unable to string any kind of consistent effort that resembled their team mantra, a good man John MacLean lost his job with Jacques Lemaire returning one final time to at least save face. Ironically, their much more inspired play coincided with the trade of former captain and '03 Cup hero Jamie Langenbrunner who gets to compete for another with his former team in icy cold Dallas. Home of the Super Bowl. Is it a bit strange that they're suddenly playing more like the team we've grown accustomed to? Just by how they pushed the Rangers the last time before the New Year demonstrated that the Devils wouldn't be an easy game anymore. Pride has been restored.

What we don't get is why Brodeur felt obligated to speak about a team he loathes. He's always commanded the spotlight. Playing in the Garden State hasn't always been easy. Had the Devils been located in Manhattan, they'd build a statue for him. That's how great he's been. That doesn't mean it's cool to take subtle shots at the close Hudson rival. Something he's done throughout his career. Do you ever hear a peep out of nemesis Lundqvist? Only praise when it comes to the opposite No.30 who he has the utmost respect for.

Brodeur is right about one thing. He's been fortunate to play for a good organization that made winning a priority. For that, he should be grateful. However, a little friendly advice to Marty. Stick to your team. You know plenty of Garden Faithful will let him know about it tonight. Get your popcorn ready!

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