5/29/2012 10:58:01 AM
As the 40-year-old prepares to enter his fifth Finals series, it's obvious
those eulogies were delivered prematurely.
Yet, before Brodeur even gets a chance to lead the New Jersey Devils to a
fourth Stanley Cup title, all anybody wants to know is if he'll retire should
his team win it all. Of course, the Los Angeles Kings and their own star
goaltender, Jonathan Quick, stand in the way of Brodeur actually having to make
Brodeur was willing to talk at length about the possibility of his retirement
when he spoke with reporters on Monday, but he mostly spoke about how much fun
he was having still playing. The last thing he sounded like was a guy ready to
hang up the skates.
"I can't say no, but I doubt it," Brodeur said after being asked if he'd
retire following a New Jersey title. "I'm really enjoying this. Regardless of
what happens in this series, I think we made a great step last year at the end
of the year and through this year to have a really good team and a good
coaching staff together and it's fun. To me, it's all about having fun coming
to the rink."
Much has changed since 2003 when the Devils and Brodeur last lifted the Cup.
That championship team was a club built to withstand just about any attack in
its own zone. Brodeur's magnificent play in net was a big part of that formula,
and while he still mans the crease for New Jersey today, the club's top
defensemen from 2003 -- Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and Brian
Rafalski -- have all entered retirement.
Compared to the 2003 team, these days the Devils do a lot less hanging back in
their own zone. Instead, the team has been able to apply tons of pressure on
the puck, which allows New Jersey to dictate the flow of a game. Brodeur has
relished in the up-tempo style, contributing four assists this postseason to
set an NHL record for assists by a goaltender in one playoff year.
New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella lamented the fact that his team
couldn't get the puck off the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals and the
vaunted offense of the Philadelphia Flyers also was frustrated similarly in the
Although forwards Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora join Brodeur to link this era
of Devils to the franchise's championship past, this current crop of younger
players has the goaltender feeling rejuvenated. Even though Game 1 of the
Stanley Cup Finals will be Brodeur's 200th career playoff game, winning has a
way of making everything seem new again.
"It's fun to look at these young guys. I feel like one of 'em," Brodeur said.
"I have more experience than anybody, but when you're on a hockey team and
part of something great, I think ages, experience, nationalities -- it all
goes out the window. You're part of it, and it's been a lot of fun."
One of the ways Brodeur seems to be having fun this spring is while talking to
the media. In the same way Tortorella was able to be a lightning rod for the
Rangers to draw pressure away from his young team, Brodeur has served in a
similar capacity for New Jersey. Although Brodeur said on Monday that he is
often misquoted, it appears as though there's been more than a little bit of
calculation to his remarks this spring.
However, Brodeur didn't get controversial when speaking about L.A.'s 26-year-
old goaltending sensation. Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist, and even though
he's facing a future Hall of Famer in Brodeur in the Cup Finals, the Kings
expect to have the advantage in net.
"I don't know what his past was," Brodeur said of Quick. "But he's a pretty
spectacular goalie. He wears his name really well."
Being overlooked in favor of the newer model is nothing new for Brodeur. In
the Eastern Conference finals, everyone expected he'd be outplayed by Rangers
goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, another Vezina finalist, but Brodeur was clearly
the better puck-stopper in that series.
Perhaps, Brodeur is benefiting from the perspective gained in winning three
championships and having to wait nearly a decade for a shot at a fourth.
"I know a lot of people say it's great to retire on top, but at the end of the
day, when I'm going to say it's over, it's over, I'm not going to come back. I
want to make sure I make the right decision."
It's taken a long time for him to get back to the Cup Finals and it's hard to
blame Brodeur for not wanting to commit to retirement just yet. He's proven
the doubters wrong so many times at this point, who are we to say he can't
do it for a few more years?