Even after earning his 24th career postseason shutout, Martin Brodeur is still looking to put together a truly "Brodeurian" performance.
Granted, the Devils goaltender, who will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, has won three Stanley Cup championships and proved he's one of the greatest goalies ever. But New Jersey has struggled in the playoffs, and most of the criticism has fallen on Brodeur.
To win Game 7, the Devils need a similar performance as last night. But one more thing could push them toward their first second round series since 2006-07: a truly vintage performance by Brodeur.
Brodeur's numbers aren't terrible in these playoffs. In six games, he's posted a 2.22 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. Those numbers, taken together, are his best averages in three years of postseason play. He's made several highlight reel saves, and he stole at least one game with his 4-0 shutout win in Game 4.
But he's still struggling to become that vintage Brodeur. Take a look at the second Florida Panthers goal last night, and see how Brodeur fought the puck on the initial save.
(Video courtesy of NHL.com)
Brodeur makes that stick-side save nine times out of ten, but it's been typical of some of the goals allowed this postseason. Instead of making the easy saves he's fighting the puck, and it's leading to plenty of opportunities for the Panthers.
The Devils are comfortable with Brodeur in their net, and they should be. He brings a 5-4 record into his 10th Game 7, with a dazzling 1.93 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He's won the big games, including shutting out the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup championship. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said his experience, especially in these big games, gives New Jersey a big lead.
"We all know what Marty is capable of doing," DeBoer told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "We all know that he's comfortable in those situations. I think that goes a long way because it settles your team down."
Ilya Kovalchuk agreed.
"Experience is important," he told Gulitti. "I'm pretty sure he knows what to do and how to respond in all different situations. He's been in that position before and that's good for us."
He's also been on the wrong side of those games, including allowing two goals in the final 80 seconds to the Carolina Hurricanes three years ago. They're just 3-5 on the road in Game 7, and that includes a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals.
Tomorrow night, the New Jersey Devils will need their best effort. That includes a vintage performance from Brodeur, who may still have a few games left to steal this postseason.