New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur trying to get best of New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Brodeur has the numbers: NHL-record regular-season wins (656), and shutouts (119); second all time (to Patrick Roy) with 107 postseason triumphs, and three Stanley Cups for the New Jersey Devils.
But since coming into the league in 2005, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist has had his cross-river rival’s number, going 28-10-5 head-to-head overall, not that this should go to his head: Lundqvist is currently playing in his first Eastern Conference final and Brodeur in his fifth.
The Rangers, the top seed, are the pick of the bookmakers and won the opener 3-0 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Brodeur is the favorite by those who love a last hurrah. Always content to play in the shadow of New York — where he says he never goes unless he is playing a game — Brodeur, 40, has cherished 18 years of being the face of the market’s stepchild, which remained true even while the Rangers went seven years without making the playoffs.
“The way the [Devils were] playing, the area, how close it is to Montreal (home), New Jersey was best for me,” Brodeur said recently. “Pulled off three of the four Stanley Cups I have played for, so it’s not too bad.”
Brodeur always played the sly dog even before he became a sly old dog, teasing shooters with an open net that his glove would snatch away, taking little responsibility for goals he allowed. So, when he anointed King Henrik the new king of the NHL on Sunday, was Brodeur being gracious or trying to make uneasy the head that wears the crown?
“He’s the one having these unbelievable years lately, so he is kind of the top goalie in the NHL right now,” Brodeur said. “I was in that position once, playing against Patrick [Roy], against Dominik Hasek, all the guys who [had] maybe passed the top years in their careers.
“But it is kind of nice to be able to compete against him. I will do my best to try to match up, but it’s going to be pretty hard. His positioning is a lot better than it used to be.”
The lovefest goes both ways.
“It’s a great challenge for me to play against [Marty],” Lundqvist said. “I remember I got a few games against Hasek, and I put him up there with him. Just growing up, they were big guys. So it’s always exciting, it is.”
It also is a lot better work backstopping the Rangers than it used to be. So Lundqvist, 30, a Heart Trophy finalist, has reached his prime at a prime time for the franchise. His butterfly has become virtually unbeatable in part because his workload has been diminished by the Rangers’ league-leading, shot block totals.
The Devils blocked a ton, too, to help Brodeur survive bad goals in both Games 1 and 3 of the Flyers series. But when teammates hung on the rocks in the third period and overtimes of Game 7 of the first round, against Florida, Brodeur pulled them off. If the Last Standup Goaltender standing is not his old dominating self, we shall see if he is still capable of warming to perhaps the last great challenge of his career: Lundqvist.
“I don’t know how many times he’s shut us down, but he’s played so well,” Brodeur said. “I don’t think I’ve played that bad.
“Circumstances happen. You could talk about my record against [the Rangers’] Mike Richter and probably flip-flop those [Lundqvist] stats. You play long enough, you can make the stats read whatever you want.
“He has cherished that challenge to play against the Devils. But I’m 4-4 [against Lundqvist, before the opener] in the playoffs and will try to do better. I will be judged about my performance these next two weeks, so might as well try to make a good impression.
“Doesn’t matter what I did in the past. That’s the nature of being still active. If I wasn’t ready for it, I wouldn’t be here.”