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Brodeur sets bar for next generation

Tuesday, 12.8.2009 / 4:55 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Brodeur sets bar for next generation
Now that Martin Brodeur has matched Terry Sawchuk, he can set his sights on sole possession of the NHL’s shutout record.

He notched the 103rd of his career with Monday’s 3-0 win in Buffalo and stands one away from surpassing Sawchuk for the most all-time.

Brodeur has recorded back-to-back goose eggs six times in his career, a feat he last achieved in 2006-07. He blanked Florida, 2-0, on Oct. 26, 2006, then shut out Columbus, 1-0, two nights later.

The Devils open a five-game homestand Wednesday against Carolina, but the 16-year vet knows these records unfold in their own time.

“When you look at how I do it, usually with shutouts it’s every 10 games I get about one,” Brodeur said Tuesday. “I’ve had stretches of, you know, 30 games without one, but the odds are more and more, I’m like, ‘It’s going to happen soon.’ Then it’s, do you feel it? And I felt pretty good the way I was playing, too, so it’s just a matter of the stars being aligned on that one night and it happens.”

During a game, Brodeur can feel when he’s in shutout form, but there’s no predicting when a bad bounce or crazy carom will add its own wrinkle.

The Devils led 1-0 entering the third period in Boston on Nov. 27. Brodeur thought he was playing the puck safely off the glass only to have it skip back in front for a goal by Blake Wheeler. New Jersey went on to win, 2-1, in a shootout.

“Like I was in Boston and I thought, ‘There’s no way somebody’s going to score on me,’” he recounted. “That’s the feeling that I had until (the puck hit) the partition and boom-boom in it’s in the net (12) seconds after the faceoff in the third period. That’s how it happens; it doesn’t matter how you feel. The bounces around you, it’s everywhere. You’re vulnerable to referee calls, non-calls, so many things. You have to play the game the way it’s played. I think you stay focused and good things will happen. It’s all about winning. If you have in your mind you want to win this game and you’re doing everything you can to win, the next thing you know, you’ll have shutout opportunities.”

Once he had tied Patrick Roy's wins mark last season, Brodeur surpassed it the next game with No. 552. He cautions that shutouts are far more elusive.

“It got to a point (last season) that when you’re one away, a win is pretty easy because eventually you’ll win a game,” he said. “But a shutout, I had in my head that it could take long time. Again, now I’m tied with him and who knows when the next one’s going to come. I would love to have it right away, but right now, I’ve done it. I’m with him, and I’m satisfied – this is pretty cool. It’s hard to think about, ‘Well this is going to be the night.’ There’s so many things that happen. I’m just looking forward to it just to get it out of the way, and now I think it’s out of my head. Everything is gravy from now on.”

After posting shutout No. 102 against Carolina on Oct. 17, it took Brodeur 18 starts and less than two months to reach 103. It took Sawchuk nearly two years to do the same thing, though it was a span of just 23 starts.

Brodeur admitted to wondering when he’d finally catch Sawchuk.

“I was thinking about it a little bit more because every time I went into the third period with no goals (people would ask), ‘Were you thinking about it, were you thinking about?’” he said. “My brother was here for two weeks helping me out with my newborn and was like, ‘Chico (Resch) he said it in the second period; he jinxed you!’ It’s like, well I’m sure a lot of other people said it too. For my family, my dad, my brother, the expectation of it was probably greater than my own. It was there for me, I wanted to do it, but more realistically, I know how that works more than a guy that doesn’t play the game.”

Some of the 103 stand apart from the rest, particularly the scoreless ties of the pre-shootout era.

“The one against Dominik Hasek, that 0-0 tie (on Dec. 23, 1996) where we had 38 saves apiece,” he said. “I think I had another one against Vanbiesbrouck against the Islanders (on Dec. 1, 2000). There were a lot of shots and it was a 0-0 game. These are the ones that I keep thinking of: you get a shutout and don’t have a win, and back then there were no shootouts. These are the ones you remember. You look at even in the playoffs, a bunch in the playoffs also. Playoff shutouts – or almost shutouts – with having two shutouts in one game and losing (Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern quarterfinals at Buffalo) 1-0 in seven periods against Dominik. He had 70 saves, I had 49 saves; they’re hard to kick out of your head.”

And the six-save shutout of Toronto in Game 6 of the 2000 Eastern semis?

“Hey, you still gotta save ‘em,” he said.

It's no secret that Brodeur’s numbers (575 wins) dwarf those of active goaltenders. Chris Osgood, who, like Brodeur, played his first full season in 1993-94, sits in second place with 180 fewer victories (395) and 53 fewer shutouts (50).

If some records seem within reach, others are chiseled into the history books as all but unbreakable.

“I think it’s a bar that I’ve put for goalies,” Brodeur said. “People in the past put bars for goalies to excel, and I’ve reached them. Hopefully I’ll raise them up, and good for the guy that’s going to go after it. I’ve been having a pretty good ride; it’s been pretty tremendous what we’ve accomplished here in New Jersey and for myself. And, so, for any other goalies to be able to get to the wins and shutout records means they’ll be successful. All the power to them if they’re able to get there.”

Brodeur’s total looks down on the game’s legendary names: George Hainsworth (94), Glenn Hall (84), Jacques Plante (82). And with a League-leading 18 wins, he’s still going strong at age 37.

“It’s mindboggling a bit because you look at just the names that are attached, with Jacques Plante and older goalies that I never had the chance to see or even meet,” he said. “Now you see my name, still playing, and it’s on top. So it’s pretty good. I saw on the NHL Network they had the breakdown of the top five goalies with shutouts – it’s pretty impressive. It’s tough for me to fathom a little bit, but it is what it is.”