December 21, 2009
Having witnessed dozens of Martin Brodeur's(notes) NHL-record 104 career shutouts between the pipes for the New Jersey Devils, tonight's history-making blanking of the Pittsburgh Penguins was a perfect representation.
The Devils played a devastatingly efficient road game in front of him, scoring four goals and making all the right little plays to disrupt their opponents' attack. But just when you're about to hand the credit to the Devils' time-tested system, you see Brodeur with 35 saves on the night, having made more than a few difficult ones. You see a goalie who isn't riding the coattails of his teammates but providing their backbone.
It's the single most unappreciated aspect of the entire "Brodeur vs. the system" debate: That it takes an extraordinary talent to provide the foundation for that system to excel for, oh, 15 years. So while players and coaches and rules and eras have come and gone, Brodeur has been the constant in GM Lou Lamoriello's franchise-defining philosophy of fundamental defensive play. If you think someone like Curtis Joseph(notes) could have backstopped 104 shutouts by simply being a Devils goalie, you're either delusional or, more likely, a Rangers fan.
New Jersey's 4-0 win over the Penguins was typically workmanlike, but every shutout has its defining moments. The ones for Shutout No. 104 came when Sidney Crosby(notes) rifled a shot off the right post with 1 minute, 42 seconds left in the third period; followed one minute later by Brodeur's low glove save on Evgeni Malkin(notes), which he hoisted in the air with a flourish in a move his idol/contemporary Patrick Roy mastered.
Two of the best players in the world turned aside; one with a little luck, the other with faultless positioning. You need both to be a winning goalie, and Brodeur's had them since 1994.
It was his 104th shutout, an NHL record. His 580th career win, an NHL record. His 1,032nd career game, an NHL record. Argue there are more talented goalies. Argue that his era defined him rather than Brodeur having defined an era. Argue that it's all the trap or obstruction or Jacques Lemaire or Scotts Stevens and Niedermayer. What you can't argue is Brodeur's place in NHL history as goaltending royalty. Because this record cements it. The way generations heard Terry Sawchuk's name, they'll now hear Brodeur's.
Coming up, some stunning numbers regarding Marty's shutout record.
Great job by the NHL pulling together a stats pack about Brodeur's legacy.
Here are Brodeur's shutouts on a team-by-team basis; R.I.P. Winnipeg and the Whale:
Here are Brodeur's shutouts by the score:
That's 21 shutouts by a score of 1-0 and 25 with the score 2-0. Most impressive.
Finally, Brodeur's shutouts by month and by season:
So that's 29 shutouts since the NHL changed its rules to make Brodeur less effective, including one year wiped out by injury.
Just another reason why his Hall of Fame plaque should be shaped like a trapezoid ...