…and his name isn’t Martin Brodeur. First off, congrats to the Boston Bruins on winning the Stanley Cup. It’s amazing what the city’s sports teams have accomplished since the Patriots went on their run. In 10 years, Boston’s won 3 Super Bowls, 1 NBA title, 2 World Series, and now a Stanley Cup. Mighty impressive. I know a lot of Bruins fans and I couldn’t be happier for them. But, alas, it’s this time of year that I always think about the two that got away. And by that I mean the two Conn Smythe Trophies that Marty Brodeur should have on his mantle.
I get a lot of crap from other Devil fans when I say Marty should’ve won the award in 2000. Scott Stevens is a beloved Devil. I get that. I love Scott Stevens. And he was, as Coach Larry Robinson said, “a tower of strength,” that year. However, while Stevens played stellar defensively and laid out some nasty hits, Marty should’ve won it. He put up a 1.61 GAA, a .927 S%, and 2 SO. However, much like every other year up to that point, Marty was considered a product of the system. A very good, if not great goalie that benefitted from what was in front of him.
2003 was the real tragedy. Yes, JS Giguere got his team to the Final single handedly. He was the reason the Ducks were there. But while everyone was talking about Jiggy, Marty was quietly (if that’s possible) putting together one of, if not THE greatest postseason a goalie’s ever had. His 7 shutouts are an NHL record. Three of those came in the Final. That’s unheard of. In the first two games, he was incredible. He wasn’t too shabby in Anaheim either, especially in game 4, when the Devils just couldn’t get the goal to get them over the top. Yes, he had his gaffe in game 6, and he’ll be forever mocked for that. But when he could’ve collapsed, he stood tall in game 7 and shut out the Ducks again. And it wasn’t a cheap shutout. He faced 24 shots in that game, and Anaheim really brought it in the third period.
Looking back on the first 3 rounds, Jiggy never really faced any kind of pressure. They won in a sweep of the Wings, then in six versus Dallas, and finally swept the Wild to get to the final. The Devils had a much tougher road, beating the Bruins and Lightning in 5 each, and then playing that grueling 7 game series against Ottawa. Most remember that Ottawa series for the 3-1 lead and the Devils almost blowing it. Few remember how good Marty was in holding down the fort, especially when Ottawa came out flying in game 7.
There are very few things I will ever regret about Marty Brodeur. I’ll get to tell my 3 year old son that I saw him play. Actually, there’s something I regret. I regret my son will never get to see Marty play goal live. I remember my dad taking me to see Gretzky play and being mesmerized by his ability. I’ve seen Roger Federer play live on a number of occasions and I can’t wait to tell my son about how brilliant he was. However, aside from the nostalgia factor, I will regret that the media never caught on to Marty. That it took the Olympics in ’02 and post lockout brilliance for them to realize that all those years it wasn’t the system. I imagine there’s a lot of media members who would change their votes if they knew then what they know now.
I’ve been trumpeting my anti-system argument for year. The short version. When people tell me that Marty is a product of the system, I say the system was a product of him. Before the trapezoid, Marty would face very few shots, and he had a ton to do with that. First, Marty doesn’t just stop pucks. He stops them with purpose, with direction, and with the intent of not facing a rebound. So while the butterfly goalies are flopping around and just trying to cover as much of the net as possible, overcommitting and dropping to their knees first sign of a shot, Marty was making as few moves as possible, to keep his energy up, and to prevent 2nd and 3rd shots. Second, his ability as a stick handler severely limited the amount of shots he faced. It also kept his defense fresh. Teams would dump the puck in on him, and he’d dump it right out or give it to a defenseman. How many more minutes did Stevens and Niedermayer play because they weren’t having to dig around in the corners and behind the net? How many shots were prevented because you couldn’t gain possession and get shots without carrying it in?
At the end of the day, Marty will be, and already is, the greatest ever to play the game. While many think it’s debatable, I say the numbers never lie. Sure Roy has 4 Cups and 3 Conn Smythe trophies, but Marty’s got the wins. And Marty’s stats are ridiculous. More one goal wins than any goalie. More 1-0 and 2-1 wins than any goalie. More wins period. Most shutouts. It goes on and on. And, no one ever created a rule for Patrick Roy. I just wish he had one or two playoff MVPs in his closet. God knows he really deserved them.