He’s 40 years old. And in Game 1 of the Finals, Marty Brodeur made the 200th playoff appearance of his career, second only to Patrick Roy. Brodeur caught fire in the second half of the season with the Devils, going 12-5-0 in the playoffs with a 2.04 GAA, and .929 save percentage.
Sure, it may seem obvious that the Montreal native would come back next year. New Jersey is finally starting to jell. After missing the playoffs last year, the Devils beat the Flyers and then the Rangers – arguably their two biggest rivals – in dramatic fashion to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2004.
“I can’t say no, but I doubt it,” Brodeur told reporters from Fire and Ice after beating the Rangers in Game 6. “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 good 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.”
But Brodeur has nothing left to prove. He’s won three Stanley Cups with the Devils and has a 2.21 goals-against-average, ranked second in NHL history and 133 overall shutouts, the most for any goalie. Oh yeah, and he has the most career wins of any goalie. What else is there left to do?
As for New Jersey, if Brodeur goes on to retire, they’d be without their star netminder for the first time since 1990 when he was drafted in the 1st round (20th overall). Talk about trying to fill big shoes. The current back-up isn’t any younger either. Johan Hedberg is 39 years old and has only played in 377 total games, a stark contrast to Brodeur’s totals.
As of late, New Jersey hasn’t made a strong case for Brodeur to come back. The Devils, down 3-0 to the Kings, have shown little passion and fight aside from the fourth line. In two overtime games, the Devils were unable to convert, falling into an early hole. But the worst was yet to come. In game three, New Jersey didn’t show up. Plain and simple.
The Kings first goal was questionable. Brodeur had the puck in his left pad for several seconds, but the referees allowed the Kings Alec Martinez to hack at the puck and capitalize with the early goal. From there, it went downhill. New Jersey took two stupid penalties, putting them down a man when they were already down three goals. It was a disgrace to say the least.
If you had asked me just one short week ago before the Stanley Cup Finals began, my answer would have been different. The Devils were cruising and Brodeur seemed like he was 19 and in his first year of pro hockey all over again. I might have even placed money on Brodeur coming back next season. But today, Wednesday, June 6, I’m leaning the other way. While the Devils are staring straight in the eyes of elimination tonight, Brodeur’s staring straight down the end of his career.