Is this the same Martin Brodeur in net for the New Jersey Devils?
Goalies that turn 40 aren't supposed to do the things he does. All season long, the analysts wrote off the aging goaltender. And with good reason. Brodeur finished the regular season with a 2.41 goals-against average in 59 regular season games. It was the fourth-highest average in his career, and was the second straight season he posted a goals-against average higher than 2.40. His three shutouts tied a career-low as the team's starter, and Devils coach Pete DeBoer seemed comfortable using backup Johan Hedberg to split time.
Rumors swirled all season about his retirement. While he tried to downplay him, most expected him to backstop the Devils to a second-round exit, and a summer where he'd have to think seriously about his future in the NHL.
A funny thing happened on the way to that ending. Brodeur turned back the clock, flashing the coy smile and cool confidence that helped New Jersey win three Stanley Cup championships. Nothing seemed to faze Brodeur. Not the constant net-crashing of the Philadelphia Flyers. Not a punch from former teammate Mike Rupp in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Not even an 0-3 hole could rattle Brodeur.
He's the main reason New Jersey finds itself climbing out of an 0-3 hole in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. Brodeur, once again an underdog, is thriving in a matchup with Jonathan Quick. The Kings goalie has put together a postseason for the ages, but that hasn't taken Brodeur off his game. He's matched Quick save for save, providing enough highlight reel plays to create his own Sportscenter Top 10. In this series alone, there's been the classic "double stack" pad save, a diving poke check and several beautiful kick saves.
Now, the Devils goalie is finally getting his due. Overshadowed throughout the playoffs, he's starting to gain some consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy. The postseason MVP award, usually given to a member of the Stanley Cup winners, can sometimes find it's way into the hands of a lucky loser. Brodeur saw that happen firsthand in 2003, when J.S. Giguere took home the Conn Smythe Trophy despite losing in seven games.
If Brodeur and the Devils complete the historic comeback, he would definitely take home the one award that's eluded him. But if they lose? The Devils goalie could still win it.
Brodeur's been money in the playoffs, and he's willed his team back into the Stanley Cup Finals. A nomination for the Conn Smythe Trophy is a no-brainer. Heading home with that, and no championship, is no consolation for Brodeur.
"We don't want to go home," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "We just want to play. You can tell the guys are playing with desperation. (Saturday) wasn't our best game and everybody will tell that on our side, but we found a way to win in a tough, tough situation. These guys, for the first 10 minutes they were all over us. Then after that we kind of played a little better. We got composed a little bit, but we find ways to block shots, make a save. We got lucky. They hit a few posts.
"We'll find a way somehow."