"We have to find a way to score goals. I try to give these guys a chance to win. I've done that in the first three games. At the end of the day, it's hard to win games when you don't score many goals. I try to be perfect but the other guy is a little more perfect than me."
Tabloid headlines. Hours of sports talk radio fodder. Dissection of each word between periods on TV.
But Martin Brodeur's words before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final passed through the media filter without any accusations of egomania or griping about teammates. First, because the New Jersey Devils don't inspire that level of media scrutiny. Second, because with his team down 3-0 in Game 4, Wednesday night felt like a coronation for the Los Angeles Kings, with the Devils filling the perfunctory role of The Defeated.
Third, because Marty Brodeur's comportment — honest, articulate and disarmingly jovial in the face of adversity — and accomplishments make him an unique and compelling messenger.
If Brodeur is staying this to the media, he's saying it in the room, because that's the kind of environment Coach Peter DeBoer and his staff have fostered. He's right: In Games 1, 2 and the first 30 minutes of Game 3, he gave the New Jersey Devils a chance to win. The team in front of him scored two goals: One put in by a Kings player and a deflection goal by a fourth-liner.
They weren't holding up their end of the deal.
In Game 4, they did. And Brodeur has them believing that a inconceivable comeback is possible.
Adam Henrique, who beat Jon Quick cleanly for the game-winning goal in, parroted Brodeur's words in his postgame comments:
"He took us to overtime the first two games, gave us a chance to win those ones. He kept us in it from start to finish. He made some great plays, some great saves. It's what we've come to expect from him. He's a huge reason why we're here," said the rookie.
Veteran Petr Sykora, who played with Brodeur on the Devils' Cup championship team in 2000, told the New York Post:
"You watch Marty from the bench and he's always calm and never gets rattled, and that's what makes him the best—and he is the best. … Under pressure he has that confidence that makes him who he is. That's why he's a legend."
Brodeur has given up more than two goals in just six of his 22 playoff games this postseason, including twice in the first three games against the Florida Panthers. In Game 3 of that series, Coach Peter DeBoer pulled Brodeur from a 3-3 tie on home ice. Brodeur responded with a 26-save Game 4 shutout of the Panthers to even the series.
He's given his team a chance to win in every series when faced with adversity. His 43-save performance in Game 7 against Florida, keeping the game tied until Henrique's heroics. The Devils dropped Game 1 against the Flyers; Brodeur stopped 19 of 20 shots to win Game 2. The Devils were down 2-1 to the New York Rangers; Brodeur stopped 28 of 29 to win Game 4, and the Devils went on to win three straight to eliminate their archrivals.
Brodeur tried to match Jonathan Quick's play in the first two games of the series, but the LA netminder was a bit better in the first two and unbeatable in Game 3.
One loss away from elimination, the Devils rallied to extend the series thanks to a 21-save Brodeur performance that was notable for some daring poke-checks on Kings' odd-man rushes and a classic kick-save that sent the puck out of harm's way.
Logic and history said to lay down, pack it up, let the Kings have their chalice on home ice.
Brodeur was defiant. Does he believe the Devils can actually pull this off?
"More than yesterday," he said after Game 4.
"You know, I think we wanted to make them jump on a plane and come to New Jersey. We had to go anyway. Might as well get a game over there," he said with a sly grin.
"But I think it's a tough situation for us to be in. We pulled it off, one game. We'll take it one game at a time. But I'm sure they're not happy to make that trip. We'll try to make it miserable for them again."
Only three teams have rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the NHL Playoffs to win a series. It's happened in the Stanley Cup Final once, in 1942. The last surviving member of that Toronto Maple Leafs team told the Newark Star-Ledger the key to victory is "you've got to win one game before you can do anything else."
The Devils did, and the series continues. Whether it's the start of something magical or delaying the inevitable, that's up to Marty Brodeur and his teammates; and, perhaps, the inspiration those teammates take from Marty Brodeur.
Before Game 4, during the national anthem, Brodeur left his customary position inside the crease to join his teammates on the blue line. Whatever his motivation, it was a moment to savor: The 40-year-old face of the franchise, having given this team everything he has left in the tank, standing with them, staring into the abyss. And, in the end, somehow not plummeting into it.
"For me, it's living in the moment, living these experiences with these guys. That's what hockey is all about," said Brodeur.
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