LOS ANGELES – When every player but one had finished their postgame interviews and the New Jersey Devils' dressing room completely cleared out, team officials placed a six-inch podium in front of a random stall. There, a gaggle of reporters crowded around, waiting for the guy who'd just given up four goals in a 4-0 shellacking.
It wasn't the kind of performance that's made Martin Brodeur a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Even still, none of the blame for this latest loss to the Los Angeles Kings was being laid at his feet. To a man, Brodeur's Devils teammates repeated the same line: We've got to get him some goals.
And really, they're right. Three games into the Stanley Cup Final and the Devils have yet to lead for even a single second. The first two losses in the series weren't because of their netminder, who gave up a total of two goals in regulation and two more in overtime, extra periods that wouldn't have been necessary had Mark Fayne not missed an open net in Game 1 or Ilya Kovalchuk not clanked one off the crossbar in Game 2. After being shut out in Game 3, the Devils have now scored a grand total of two goals in 201 minutes of ice time.
So out of the closed dressing room came their eldest statesman, the 40-year-old Brodeur – the only player in either dressing room who has seen a razor in the last month – to answer a question that's really just silly: Can your team come back from a 3-0 hole?
It's a silly question not because the Devils can't (even if it is unlikely), but because what else is he supposed to say?
"Every team that's down three-nothing will pull out the same speech. It's not new," he said. "We're looking at this as one game at a time, like everybody will probably tell you the last 20 years or so, and we'll go from there."
OK, but how do you really feel?
"I feel confident," he said. "We're gonna work really, really hard and we'll see where that brings us. That's the attitude we've been having all playoff long, all season long. You know, we're just facing a team that's doing everything right right now and that's hard."
Give the guy credit. He'd just played a lousy game (by his standards), his team is on the brink of elimination, his career is winding down which means this is likely his last best shot at a Stanley Cup, yet he stood on that six-inch podium handling five minutes of questions in English, then several more in French, then some more in English.
At one point a microphone produced a screeching feedback sound. Brodeur shot a quick scowl, then apologized for doing so, sounding like every bit the gentleman he appeared to be in that black suit and powder-blue tie.
"They're trying really hard," he said of teammates' inability to provide him much in the way of offensive support. "I think we've played some really good hockey, we just can't find a way to score goals. That's a tough way going about games because you need goals to win. It's unfortunate but everybody's trying really hard and I'm really proud of these guys and we're not quitting."
Of course he's not quitting. This is a guy who's eliciting he's still playing? wonderment from people who are tuning into the NHL playoffs for the first time in a decade. Yeah, he's still playing, yeah, he's got his team in the Stanley Cup Final, and yeah, he wants to come back next season if the Devils will have him. (Which, surely, they will.)
As the interview wound down, I asked Brodeur about his demeanor. He didn't seem bothered or upset by his team's predicament. What to make of this?
"I've been around," he replied. "For me, I'm really happy to be here. I feel fortunate, and frustration at this point is something that's going to take away from what you need to do. I think our attitude needs to be really positive.
"You know, we're in a tough situation. [Just because] I'm not going to be here and answer two questions and walk out the media room, that doesn't mean that I don't care. I really care about this organization, this team and what we're going to try to achieve here. It's probably the most difficult thing in any sport."
He should know. He's won three Stanley Cups. After Monday night's defeat, No. 4 four isn't likely, at least not this year. Still, he respects the journey enough to talk about it, in good times and bad. So there he was – the legend, the leader – after all of his teammates had vacated the dressing room, answering questions about a 4-0 beating that had no good answers.
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