May 16, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) makes a glove save against the New York Rangers during the third period in game two in the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Devils won 3-2. Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Time and time again this postseason, I've cringed when opponents get an opportunity to shoot. Despite still being one of the best puck-handling goalies in the game, every time Brodeur skates away from the crease, I get a little anxious.
Before the postseason, these feelings were normal. Brodeur entered the season a 39-year old on the downswing of his career. He's battled injuries for the past three seasons, and head coach Peter DeBoer told the media he'd cut Brodeur's playing time.
Brodeur posted a shutout in the first round, but still struggled against the Florida Panthers. He showed flashes of brillance, especially in Game 7, helping New Jersey advance to the second round. Against the Philadelphia Flyers, he looked more comfortable, jostling with players in front of the net and making key saves.
That performance didn't get him any recognition for this series. At the other end of the ice stands Henrik Lundqvist, ten years younger and a finalist for both the Vezina and Hart Trophies. He was one of the hottest goalies coming into the series, and I wrote that Brodeur would need to prove himself yet again.
Through two games, he's done more than prove himself. Brodeur is silencing critics with his play. From the diving backhand glove save on Marc Staal in Game 1, to the desperation leg kick to deny Ryan McDonagh's wraparound in Game 2 and the heel save, while on his belly, to rob Marian Gaborik later in that matchup. He's allowed just four goals on 52 shots, and just one of those has been with the teams playing 5-on-5 hockey.
Entering the series, Brodeur wasn't surprise most experts wrote him off.
"For the most part, every time I play some tight series in my career I've always been the underdog for whatever reason," Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "So, it's no different with him (Lundqvist). I think he deserves to have the accolades that he's getting. Even though we scored three goals, we had to work really hard to score on him. He's the key to their success. He's such a good goalie and he keeps them in the game in every game in the playoffs. He hasn't gotten scored (on) more than two or three goals in this playoff (year). That is pretty amazing when you've already played over 15 games."
Brodeur's numbers have only improved with the team's run. He enters Game 3 with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.
If he continues making those highlight reel saves, Brodeur may eventually steal the spotlight from Lundqvist. Another solid performance could also push his team into their first Stanley Cup Finals since 2003.