Brodeur's hybrid style fuels historic quest

Wednesday, 03.11.2009 / 5:27 PM ET / Features
By Eric Marin
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Brodeur\'s hybrid style fuels historic quest
Brodeur pulls a save out of the air Tuesday against Calgary.
newjerseydevils.com – You could argue that Martin Brodeur’s style is unconventional; that he’s not quite down on every shot and yet not quite up, falling somewhere in between the butterfly style of Patrick Roy and the upright positioning of the old school.

But whatever you call it, it’d be impossible to call it anything other than a huge success. Brodeur’s assault on the NHL’s history books has put just one win shy of tying Roy’s record 551 victories.

Like so many elite athletes who excel at their sports without strict explanations for how or why, Brodeur approaches goaltending with a short list of fundamentals. The rest is left up to his own superior abilities.

“My style is really about being an athlete in net,” Brodeur said after Wednesday’s practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion. “You just react a certain way and make different stops different ways. It’s not a robotic type of movement over and over. Some goalies are more toward that style, and it works for them. Everybody has their own reason for their style and what their ability lets them do. The way I like to play, it’s fun. I’m challenging players and going into these little battles when I face a guy.”

Even to hear Brodeur describe his counterparts around the NHL, it becomes clear that no one
does it quite like he does.

“You see goalies, (Calgary’s Miikka) Kiprusoff is one guy that’s really active: he’ll pokecheck, he’ll move around, he’ll be really aggressive. (San Jose’s Evgeni) Nabokov is the same way, and (Dallas’ Marty) Turco’s a little like that. They definitely have more of a butterfly, they go back to that a lot compared to me. I stand up a little more. Because I make saves standing up, people aren’t used to seeing a guy making a stop from an angle, standing up and freezing the puck between his skates. You don’t see that too often anymore.”

As if Brodeur’s 15-season resume of 550 victories and 100 shutouts weren’t already impressive enough, the Montreal native boasts a flair for the dramatic. After missing 50 games with an elbow injury that required surgery, Brodeur stepped right into the Devils’ lineup on Feb. 26 and registered two shutouts in his first three games back. He needs three more shutouts to tie Terry Sawchuk for the League's all-time mark.

Jersey’s Team (44-20-3, 91pts) owns a nine-point lead over Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division, and trails Boston by six points for first overall in the Eastern Conference. The team travels to  to Montreal on Saturday and returns home next Tuesday. Purchase Tickets

The Devils have garnered serious attention as contenders with 15 regular season games remaining, and some of that can be credited to Brodeur, who, over the course of his career, has been able to tweak his game by watching the competition.

“To this day, when I say that I look at other goalies, sometimes whatever they do that works for them, I’ll look at it,” Brodeur said. “Like when I put my paddle down, that’s one thing I never did in junior hockey, then I saw Felix Potvin do it in Toronto. I couldn’t believe how effective it was on screened shots at not giving up rebounds. With the puck hitting the blade, the rebounds come out differently. Dominik (Hasek) is another thing. He looks like he’s all over the place, but if you look at his face, he’s always looking at the puck and never loses sight of anything. It might be really awkward when he moves across, but these are things that I learned and I tried. Every time I think it will be good for my game, I’ll steal from them. Hey, it’s fair game.”

Daily preparation with Devils’ goaltending coach Jacques Caron helps to keep Brodeur sharp for each start. Brodeur reviews every goal against just to see if there isn’t something better he can do next time.

Though limited by injury to 17 appearances this year, Brodeur entered the season having made 70 or more starts in 10 straight campaigns. That kind of workload requires constant attention to form and practice habits, particularly positioning.

“Sometimes looking through traffic, trying to keep my head at the same height, even if I have to go down, my head stays in the same place so my vision is good,” Brodeur said. “Sometimes you lose track of it when you play a lot, and you don’t think about what you’re really doing. That’s when you have to look at yourself and evaluate what you do. A lot of it’s positioning. I always look to see where I am when I get scored on. All the time. It’s ‘Was I in good position, was I in bad position?’”

For all his accomplishments – three Stanley Cup titles, four Vezina trophies and an Olympic gold medal – if Brodeur were to try and teach his craft, it might be a short lesson. Because at some point, an athlete’s greatness goes beyond the chalkboard and simply comes down to natural talent.

“I have some fundamentals that I do that would are pretty easy to teach,” Brodeur said. “After that, it’s what you’re able to do. It’s not everybody that’s able to be patient or be able to be a certain way; to be strong enough, or be able to read the play. It’s a combination of everything. There’s things that I do that are my fundamentals. Everyday I work at it and I talk with (Caron) to make sure I’m right where I need to be.

“It’s definitely not something that you write on a piece of paper.”