By Dave Turner
Though he can still flash the leather and catch up to a top-shelf wrister; there is one thing that will inevitably catch up with New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and that is father time.
Last season saw Brodeur turn 40-years-old and play into June during the Devils playoff run, grinding through all four rounds of the tournament and tacking more mileage on his body.
At this point, it is only natural to ask the question; what can we expect from the decorated goaltender during this lockout-shortened season?
We take a look at the pros and cons facing No. 30 as he enters the 48-game season.
Why Brodeur Will Be Successful This Year
The lockout will play a major role in how the season goes for Brodeur, but it may have a positive impact. Coming off the deep playoff run, the worst thing for him would have been to get right back on the ice at the end of September for camp.
After playing 83 games in 2011-2012, it would have been a struggle for Brodeur to ready himself from the demanding playoff atmosphere and hit the reset button for the 2012-2013 season.
Another thing to consider is that even though backup goalie Johan Hedberg would have gotten his share of games, barring injury, Brodeur would have played upwards of 60 games if this season had been an 82-game slate.
There’s no way MB30 will start all of the games this season; and with quite a few back-to-backs coming later in the season, you could see him playing anywhere between 38-42 games if he stays healthy.
So what does this all mean? Well, with ample time to recover, he’s completely healthy and rested, both physically and mentally. Because he won’t have the demand of an 82-game season, he’ll be rested into the playoffs. This is one of the longest layoffs of Brodeur’s career.
He won the Stanley cup in 1995 after the lockout ended. That season may prove valuable this year as he has been through the ups and downs of a quick season, where any extended slump can put a team out of contention. He was a Vezina finalist in 2006 after the league came back from the lost 2004-2005 season. Two lockouts, two great performances from Brodeur.
He is also the best goaltender of this generation. What he may have lost in skills due to his age, he can make up for with his unique style and veteran decision making.
Above anything else, the Quebec native showed during last years playoffs that he can certainly still play. His 2.12 Goals Against Average and .917 save % both rank above his career averages.
Why Brodeur Will Struggle This Year
The case can be made that the lockout will hurt Brodeur, because the extended time off hurts any player, especially one at his age.
Although Brodeur has been on the ice a few times during each week with his kids and such, he hasn’t been playing in games and isn’t practicing at an NHL level. There will be a lot of injuries this season because players who didn’t do as much to stay in shape are now thrust into the throngs of a season without much time to get physically game-ready.
Depth for all teams will be tested and it could very well be that Hedberg will be called on to make quite a few of the 48 starts this season.
Could Brodeur come into the season a bit out of shape? It’s possible. Not even from a sense of being overweight, but just out of hockey shape. Being in shape and being in NHL game-ready shape are two different things and really the only way to get to that point is repetition on the ice.
Perhaps it won’t be the lockout and the time off that will hurt the four-time Vezina Trophy winner, but just the fact that his skills are diminishing.
Every player goes through it. At one point or another, all players no matter their caliber, begin to lose their once-sharp skills.
Could this be the year that time finally catches up to Brodeur? He certainly has lost a step reacting to anything shot high glove side, which was evident at times last year.
Another issue to think about is the fact that the Devils may struggle to score as a team. With the losses on offense, the Devils may need to win games 3-2 and 2-1. It may be challenging to notch victories on nights when Brodeur gives up three of four. That could certainly take its toll on the goaltender if the team is unable to support him with some scoring.