Brodeur Gets By With A Little Help From His Friends|
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Staff Writer - NY Sports Day | Thursday, March 1, 2007
For years, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was flanked by an amazing supporting cast that any netminder in the NHL would die for. Over the course of his NHL career, Brodeur has been lucky to have players like Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer patrol the front of the net with such a dominance that it almost hid just how superb Brodeur really has been in the 15-plus years he’s spent in New Jersey.
The past two years however, Brodeur has proven to be the best goalie in the league and has done so with a rag-tag assortment of defensemen surrounding him, proving the long-thought theory about the Montreal-native out the window. Gone forever are the likes of Stevens, Daneyko and Niedermayer, to only be replaced by veterans Brian Rafalski, Colin White and Paul Martin, who only pale in comparison to their predecessors.
Despite the defense’s solid play this season, Brodeur has already faced more shots already this year than he did during the ’99,’00 and ’01 seasons and on is on pace to stop more shots than he ever has in a single season, proving that he can be an amazing goaltender, without an All-Star defense in front of him. Just how amazing you ask? The 34-year-old Brodeur is leading the league with 12 shutouts and an equally stellar .926 save percentage, showing no signs of slowing down, even after three quarters of the season, most of which he’s been in the net for.
However, while many believe that the Devils success this season has been due to the dominance of Brodeur, he himself was quick to dodge the responsibility to youngsters Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and veteran Jamie Langenbrunner, who together have formed a potent second line and have been responsible for a plethora of clutch goals this season. Despite how solid both Zajac and Langenbrunner have been this season and how influential they’ve been in the team’s success however, Brodeur believes Parise has been something special and may in fact be the final ingredient in what he believes is a championship season.
“He gives us a great dimension that we didn’t have before he got here,” said Brodeur, who currently has 39 wins and owns a 2.06 GAA in 61 games played this season. “I think he’s gained a lot of confidence from last season and he’s going to the net more. Let’s face it, the NHL isn’t an easy league to play in and he’s definitely working hard and going to the front of the net. Having the chance to play in a league where there’s no more hooking or grabbing for a guy his size also makes a big difference. A few years back, he maybe might have had a tougher time, so it’s great for him.”
Regardless of Parise’s on ice talent, Brodeur understands that playing with Langenbrunner and Zajac has not only benefited the former first-round draft pick, but has made the Devils a much better team and has been one of the biggest reasons why they currently find themselves sitting on top of the Atlantic division and not fighting for a playoff spot with their cross-town rivals, the New York Rangers.
“We’re a defensive team, but now we have two lines that can contribute offensively and have a lot of skill,” said Brodeur after he defeated the Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on February 22. “For us to be able to count on a guy like Zach is great; it’s another important piece to the puzzle. That line was put together earlier in the season and they’ve stuck together ever since.”
Despite the fact that Brodeur feels that Parise and his linemates have been the ones largely responsible for the team’s success this season, Parise understands just how valuable the Devils goaltender is to the team. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old son of former Islander J.P. Parise didn’t mind relishing in the success his line has had this season.
“We compliment each other really well and we’ve been able to generate offense together. As a line, we’re playing really well together,” said Parise. “Travis [Zajac] has done a really good job and has been playing like he’s been in the league for a few years. Jamie is a great player [Langenbrunner] has been scoring a point a game over the past nine or ten games and I think we’re playing great together, there’s no way around it.”
Most NHL goalies would relish the situation Brodeur has found himself in, proving all the naysayers wrong after years of conspiracy theories and comments about how talented they really are, despite putting together an eventual Hall of Fame career. But Brodeur is different; he just wants to win and doesn’t care what anyone says about him. He knows what his job is and he’s done it better than anyone to ever lace up a pair of skates.
That’s more than enough solace for him.