The first time I met Martin Brodeur, I was seven years old. My mother and I were in the dystopic confines of a KMart in Parsippany, New Jersey, where the then 24-year-old Brodeur was signing autographs. He still had a thick French accent, but he signed everything and was nice, according to my mother.
17 years later, I was standing on the outside of a scrum Brodeur was giving in the road locker room at Madison Square Garden, speaking eloquently in a now strange combination of Montreal and New Jersey accents, cracking jokes and speaking for as long as reporters want, which has (by my count) been upwards of five minutes at times this season.
Despite his statistics being lower than league average in recent years, and having been written off by nearly every local or national writer as past a time of being capable to start in goal for an NHL team, Brodeur is currently in one of the better hot streaks of his career.
Dave Lozo highlighted this in his column for Backhand Shelf on Thursday:
He is 5-1-0 with two shutouts in his past six games with his one loss coming in a game where he stopped 20 of 21 shots and lost 1-0. His save percentage in those six games is .956; his even-strength save percentage over that stretch is .956. His shutout streak of 192:26 was the second-longest of his career, when he didn’t allow a goal for 215:07 in 1997. Not bad for a guy who was being mocked last week for saying he may welcome a trade to a contender at the deadline.
In his last 340+ minutes in goal (i.e. since a three-goal first period in Boston a few weeks back) Broduer has surrendered exactly four goals. That's one for every 80 minutes. So yeah, for a guy that everyone wrote off and suggested trade rumors, it is kind of a good story. The real story, however, is how well he fits this strange, strange Devils team.
This is easily one of the stranger Devil teams I've seen in my lifetime. They jump out of the gate playing well, almost always score the first goal, only to see their play sag right around the late part of the second period, early part of the third. They can't score goals, but they often find just enough. They have defensemen who've been chided as being barely NHL-level, like Peter Harrold, and yet they've been incredibly stingy in their own zone. They either allow around 20 shots a game, like they did against Nashville, or a ton of shots from the outside, like they did against the Rangers. Either way, Brodeur is stopping them, at least lately.
So what do you even do with this Devils team? If Brodeur plays at least above average the rest of the season, Schneider should be able to match him, and the club won't surrender many goals. They clearly need another scorer on the wings, but who do they have that can bring them back such an asset? Until they figure that out, they may be on the fringe of one of the Metropolitan Division's three playoff spots. Regardless, it's nice to have nice things to say about their 41-year-old goaltender again.