The last time the NHL had a 48-game season, the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup.
And if goaltender Martin Brodeur continues to play like this, they just might claim their fourth Cup and send Brodeur off into the sunset.
The 40-year-old goaltender is tied for the league-lead in goals-against average– for goalies who have played in two or more games– having surrendered just one goal in 43 shots faced.
One could argue, as many are used to, that Brodeur’s success thus far has been systematic. New Jersey’s defense played well enough to limit high-quality chances in the first two games and that Brodeur’s simply made the stops he’s had to.
Yet, in his 120th career shutout against Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Brodeur faced nine first-period shots, four of which were good enough to make the game’s NHL.com highlight reel. He picked a different method to stop all four of those, robbing Scott Hartnell with his blocker, glove, and finally in the butterfly.
Brodeur frustrated the Flyers so much, that Wayne Simmonds even cross-checked him midway through the second period. The unflappable Brodeur looked no worse for the wear, sending the reeling Flyers to their third straight defeat.
As they do with all aging superstars, pundits believed Brodeur was on his last legs two years ago. He rebounded from his catastrophic elbow injury in 2008-09 and suffered through nagging injuries in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Brodeur’s highest career goals-against average (2.45) came in the miserable– Devils fans might call it ‘lost’– season, and he only played 56 games.
Brodeur played just two games in October 2011, and he didn’t win his first game last season until November 5. He was approaching 40, his contract was running out, and the end appeared near.
But, as we all know, he turned back the clock once the calendar hit 2012. He signed for two years this past offseason and admitted to The Record’s Tom Gulitti that the lockout refreshed him.
The Devils aren’t an offensive juggernaut, and they’ll need their goaltending to be great every night. Fortunately, they have Brodeur. Plus, Johan Hedberg is a great backup, and he’ll see his first action at some point– perhaps this weekend.
But those who suggested that the Devils would go as far as their goaltending would carry them should take notice; if Brodeur continues to excel, that could be a long way.
Pat Pickens is a lifelong Devils-fan and New Jersey native. To pay the bills, he works as a sports reporter for Hearst in Connecticut. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter here.