Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marty a champion in defeat

There he was following a heartbreaking conclusion to a fourth Stanley Cup. No matter. One of the greatest goalies the sport's ever seen, Martin Brodeur still stood tall following the Devils' Game Six 6-1 defeat that allowed the Kings to finally win their first Cup.

It's never easy when you lose. Especially when you get as close as Brodeur and these Devils did to pulling off what would've been the greatest comeback ever. Sure. Marty's accomplished everything. Three Cups. Four Vezinas. Olympic gold. All-Star appearances. All-time winningest. All-time in shutouts. Those records will probably never be broken, speaking to the model of consistency No.30 has been for the only franchise he's known. A gold standard other goalies dream about unless you're boyhood idol Patrick Roy. Of course, there are other greats like Ken Dryden, Terry Sawchuk, Dominik Hasek, George Hainsworth and Georges Vezina.

When it comes to netminding, Brodeur has had the longevity. You look at all those consecutive seasons he won 30-or-more (12) including over 40 a remarkable eight times during his career. It's jaw dropping. He hadn't been this far since he was 31 when he led the '02-03 team to a third Cup. The most unlikely of three Devils winners, overcoming the Senators thanks to a clutch performance from the big man in net. That still was one of the best teams that year. So, what came as a surprise to most really shouldn't have been.

Our resident Devil blogger Hasan has documented how tough it's been for the red and black since the lockout. Brodeur and Co. hadn't been past the second round since that third championship. There were some awful defeats with none worse than Carolina. The worst of his career because of the severity. Then, they missed the playoffs last year for the first time since '95-96. Unthinkable. Brodeur was hurt throughout and not the same. The team still made a miraculous run at it under originator Jacques Lemaire, who started it all. It wouldn't have happened without Marty. The same guy who at 40 proved he's still got it.

Considering early season struggles that saw first-year coach Pete DeBoer go with Johan Hedberg for a stretch, it's pretty remarkable. That's the special quality Brodeur has brought to New Jersey for almost 20 years. With Nick Lidstrom gone, there's still one guy left from that fun era. Thanks to a great run in which he showed he can still compete with the game's best, Marty all but assured reporters that he'll return next year. Hopefully, it will be in the only place he belongs. A New Jersey Devil. Something he emphasized.

On a night it didn't fall their way with poor Steve Bernier ejected for a controversial major penalty that saw the Kings cash in three times, Brodeur still was there as was every Devil during the best tradition in sports. They all shook hands and congratulated Flyers West. It may as well have been with no less than four on the receiving end in Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams. What must Philadelphia be thinking? They cleared all that cap space for Ilya Bryzgalov. Oops.

The best part of the handshake line was seeing Brodeur congratulate deserving Conn Smythe winner Jon Quick (16-4 1.41 .946 3 SHO)and reminding the 27-year old from Hamden, Connecticut to enjoy it. You never know when you'll get back. Something the elder statesman knows well after winning three over eight years ('95, '00, '03). There also was a bitter defeat to Roy in '01.

It's still unbelievable that Brodeur's been there for all five Devil trips. His team totaled eight goals in the series yet scared the Kings, who once led 3-0 before facing the daunting prospect of returning to Newark for Game Seven. The ultimate reason the Devils stayed alive was due to their rock, who coincidentally plays in a place called The Rock. It was Brodeur's big saves that gave them a chance to make history. The slogan, "Why Not Us" became their rallying cry.

It ended sourly but every teammate consolded their hero, who then was classy enough to do a post-game interview with NBCSN's Jeremy Roenick, who paid tribute to his former adversary. Marty stood there calm, cool and collected just as he was throughout his team's run. You could tell how proud he was of everything. A man who still irks me for his flops and hatred of MSG. But there's so much more to this man. A champion who gets it. He's been a great ambassador for hockey. Hopefully, we'll see him and maybe Zach Parise as part of the Battle Of Hudson next year.

It wouldn't be the same.

1 comment:

Hasan said...

Not bad...it doesn't look like it'll be it for Marty unless Bettman/Fehr get in the way. At least he finally silenced the critics once and for all, he didn't need HOF defensemen to be great.

I couldn't bring myself to keep NBC on after the empty-net goal though, I turned it off waiting for the MSG postgame. I only really paid attention to DeBoer and Bernier's interviews, though I heard a little of Marty's there.

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