During his 21-year playing career, New Jersey Devils‘ netminder Martin Brodeur has seen back-up goalies come and go.
Some, like Scott Clemmensen have played important roles in New Jersey. In 2008, Clemmensen took over for an injured Brodeur, and helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Others, like practically everyone else, haven’t had much of an impact. Generally, Brodeur makes over three-quarters of the starts for the Devils between the pipes, but as his career has gone on — and as he has grown older — Brodeur has been able to use effective back-up goalies to his advantage.
And, after years of not being able to advance past the first round in the playoffs, the Devils used second-string Johan Hedberg much more frequently last season, and it paid off.
Hedberg played in 27 games and won 17 of them last year, so come playoff-time, Brodeur was fresh and ready to go and it worked out. Brodeur was one of the best goalies in the post-season, leading New Jersey to its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2003.
This summer, Hedberg, who at 39-years-old could still be a 60-game starter for a good chunk of NHL teams, opted to re-sign with New Jersey for less money. His family, who had been living in Atlanta, Georgia for the past few years, was able to move to New Jersey and he was able to continue playing for a team that he enjoyed playing with.
“Lou [Lamoriello] knew exactly what I wanted. He showed a commitment to me, and I wanted to show a commitment to him,” Hedberg said after signing a two-year deal worth $1.4 million on July 2.
This year, Brodeur and Hedberg have kept that same good-mannered relationship and both players have come out of the lockout on fire. Both goalies have registered a shutout and helped New Jersey to a 4-1-3 record.
Brodeur, in six starts, has recorded a 3-1-2 record with a 2.75 goals-against-average. In his two starts, Hedberg is 1-0-1 with a 0.48 goals-against-average, with his latest start resulting in a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good and the guys have been playing great in front of me,” Hedberg said, following his 22-save shutout over New York.
There was a time when a two-goalie system, even if Brodeur was getting the majority of the starts, seemed like an outrageous idea in New Jersey. But now, it’s just resulting in wins.
Hell, with the way these two old guys are playing, neither of them may never retire.