Saturday, 9 June 2012

I'll Have Another

This isn't going to about a Canadian-owned horse, but it's starting to look like the Stanley Cup Final will be a race to the finish as the New Jersey Devils staved off elimination with another victory over the Los Angeles Kings. There were some definite horses in this game as we saw big-name players step up in a big way, and we'll head back to Los Angeles for Game Six on Monday. Honestly, though, if there was ever a player who needed to show that he was a thoroughbred, Martin Brodeur proved why he is a big-game goaltender in tonight's 2-1 win.

Martin Brodeur, long considered one of hockey's greatest goalies, won his 17th game in the Stanley Cup Final alone, and he certainly was a big part of New Jersey's win at home, ending the Kings' ten-game road winning streak. His win tonight ties him with former Islander Billy Smith for sixth-place all-time for Stanley Cup Final wins. He sits just one win back of Patrick Roy, a long-time idol of Brodeur's.

"He's been unbelievable," Patrik Elias said after the game. "You look back at last season, a lot of people were talking about him retiring, that it's the right time, et cetera. But when you're having fun, playing good hockey, this is what it can do for you.

"I've watched him many years. The way he approaches the game now, this playoffs, this season, it's as good as any years. You can see that focus that he has. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's giving us a chance to win. He has those exceptional saves in the game when you kind of sit back and say, 'Wow, he's on his game.'"

He was certainly on his game tonight. Brodeur stopped 25 of 26 shots en route to victory, and many of them were of the spectacular variety. Brodeue showed that he'd capable of still stealing a game, especially one as big as tonight's, despite a vast number of people having written him off after a few quick exits over the last couple of years.

"I shouldn't say that any of us are really surprised," New Jersey captain Zach Parise said. "He's played really well for us all year. I think when you look at it, when you look at his age, it makes it that much more impressive. The way he's doing it, it's been awesome. He's done what a team asks. You ask your goalie to give the team a chance to win. I think he really won the game for us, I really do. He made big saves when we weren't playing well, bailed us out a lot. He's played great for us all playoffs."

The word "great" may not even touch some of the saves he made tonight. Take, for example, his poke-check stop on Jarret Stoll's breakway, and then covered up the rebound with his glove.

It takes some real courage to throw a poke-check when you're tied 1-1 in what could be the last game of the season, and it takes real awareness to know where the puck is after the initial save and smother it dead with your glove.

What makes this save even more important is that the Devils roared down the ice just over a minute later, and scored the winning goal. Had Brodeur misplayed the Stoll breakaway or even the rebound, it could have been 2-1 for the Kings. Instead, the Devils used the momentum generated by that big save to march down the ice, and Bryce Salvador's tipped shot found its way past Jonathan Quick to take that lead that turned out to be the all-important game-winning goal.

Martin Brodeur has been a phenomenal player throughout his career, and this is just another chapter in his storybook career. Brodeur has always been a workhorse, putting his team on his back when the chips were down, and tonight was a great example of this.

If this is indeed Martin Brodeur's last season in the NHL, whether he wins or not, he certainly deserves a vast amount of praise for his amazing career. Here's hoping, however, he doesn't decide to head out to pasture just yet.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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