The whispers about Martin Brodeur grew into loud complaints before the start of this season.
The man who owns most of the modern goaltending records suffered through an injury-plagued, sub-.500 season as the New Jersey Devils failed to make the playoffs. A new coach promised decreased playing time, and there was talk this could be the Brodeur's final year in the National Hockey League.
He even believed it.
"I didn't have fun last year," Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "I'm not used to losing. That was tough. To me, I really thought this was going to be my last year.
"But more and more, it was I can still play."
An underdog season was just what the veteran needed to turn back the clock. Brodeur has been stellar in the playoffs, going 12-5-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He out-dueled Henrik Lundqvist in the Eastern Conference Finals, and has spent most of this postseason making highlight reel saves.
Despite turning 40 years old earlier this month, Brodeur looks like his old self in net, making incredible save after save and smiling afterward. He's silenced those complaints and doubts, and has once again proven why he's the unquestioned greatest goalie of all time.
Consider these stats:
- Brodeur won his 111th playoff game Friday night, and is second to Patrick Roy.
- If Brodeur wins a fourth cup, it will tie him with Roy for the most championships by a goalie
- He is the first goalie in NHL history to appear in a playoff game in both his teens and 40s
- Brodeur will start in his 200th playoff game Wednesday night, a feat reached by just 19 other players. One of them is a goaltender. His name? You probably already guessed it's Roy.
Those numbers pile on top of the numerous records he's already collected. Lundqvist was supposed to out-duel the aged veteran, and most didn't give him a shot against the vaunted Philadelphia Flyers offense. He proved each critic wrong, coming up with the "Brodeurian" saves people expect to see.
"Marty's best performances during the playoffs this year have been at the most key times," Devils coach Peter DeBoer told Gulitti. "Game 7, overtime against Florida (in the first round), the first overtime period he was outstanding, gave us a chance to win that game. The third period the other night of Game 6 against the Rangers, if we lose that you're in a Game 7 in their rink where we'd already won twice. The chance of winning the third one, you're really pushing yourself on whether or not you can do that. And he was outstanding at that point.
"So, his calmness and his ability to deliver at those key times has been critical and I expect the same thing here in the Finals."
Brodeur once again heads into a playoff series billed as the underdog. At the other end of the ice is Jonathan Quick, who has led his team to eight straight road wins and their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1993. Like Lundvqvist, he is a Vezina trophy finalist.
The future Hall-of-Famer will once again need to stand up and face the critics. To those who think he should retire if he wins, the Devils goalie admitted he's had too much fun this year to leave now.
"I can't say no, but I doubt it," he told Gulitti. "I'm really enjoying this. Regardless of what happens in this series, I think we made a great step last year at the end of the year and through this year to have a really good team and a coaching staff together and it's fun. To me, it's all about having fun coming to the rink. I know a lot of people say it's great to retire on top, but at the end of the day, when I'm going to say it's over, it's over, I'm not going to come back."