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  • New Jersey enjoying the luxury of having Brodeur Print
    Written by Frank Seravalli   
    Monday, 11 June 2012 15:54

    The New Jersey Devils have been luckier than most over the past two decades, in large part because of the fact that they've had Martin Brodeur. This year, Brodeur has been the reason why the Devils have stayed alive in the face of elimination.

    Frank SeravalliShortly after his New Jersey Devils had danced and avoided death for the third time this spring, coach Pete DeBoer was at a loss for words.

    For DeBoer, he was asked to describe a living legend in goaltender Martin Brodeur, a player who is just four years his junior. DeBoer could not find the right word.

    "I wish I was that eloquent, that I had more ways to phrase it for you," DeBoer said. "I mean, what else can you say?"

    Brodeur, 40, already has three Stanley Cup rings. He is tops in NHL history among goaltenders in wins, games played, saves, shutouts and minutes.

    Brodeur has more wins in the Stanley Cup Final (17) than most players could dream of taking warm-ups in during the course of a career.

    Yet, Brodeur seems to be saving his best for what may well be the swansong of his storied career.

    When the Devils knocked off Los Angeles in Game 5 in Newark, hurtling the Stanley Cup across three time zones for yet another elimination game, it was not because Zach Parise connected on a stuff attempt or unlikely hero Bryce Salvador netted the game-winner. It was not because the Los Angeles Kings couldn't capitalize on their power plays. It was not because the Devils' relentless forecheck kept them in the game.

    All of those were contributing factors, for sure.

    For New Jersey, it started and ended with Brodeur.

    "His performance speaks for itself. It's the timing of it," DeBoer explained. "I think the fact that we're 10-1 in Games 4-7 of a playoff series (this year) is a testament to how he enjoys that type of pressure."

    Pressure? Martin Brodeur laughs in the face of pressure.

    In fact, Brodeur seemed more genuinely worried about his son getting his driver's license for the first time this week than he was about the Devils bowing down to the Kings.

    Meanwhile, Jonathan Quick - who was awfully quickly nicknamed "Vezina Smythe" by a teammate or two - was busy bobbling pucks behind his own goal line in Game 5, leading to Parise's goal. That turnover put the Kings in a hole heading into the second period for just the second time these playoffs.

    When the Kings were busy planning their parade route after Game 3, and players were dreaming of how they were going to spend their 24 hours with Lord Stanley's mug, Brodeur was busy preparing. He has been here before; four times, in fact. The Kings have never won a championship in 44 seasons.

    "I think they're so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I'm sure it's getting to them a little bit, to be able to have all these chances and not capitalize on them," BrodeurMartin Brodeur said after Game 5. "We're just looking to stay alive."

    Suddenly, the Kings are on the precipice of their biggest game in franchise history. Lose Game 6 and Los Angeles will have a 6-hour, cross-country flight to think about how they're blowing an unimaginable run.

    Brodeur was the calming influence the Devils needed. Now, he has them just two wins away from an unthinkable comeback. New Jersey is already just the third team in 30 tries to force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0 in a series.

    "I can't put a finger on exactly what he does," DeBoer said. "It's how he carries himself, how he interacts. He's unflappable. You never see the pressure, the situation we're in. That's contagious to the guys in the room, around him, how we play."

    Part of that influence, Brodeur hasn't flinched. As close as they are to making history, Brodeur - like any goaltender - knows how quickly that can vanish.

    "Trust me, it's exciting to do what we're doing right now," Brodeur said. "We're having a great deal of fun. But we haven't done anything yet."

    Frank Seravalli covers the Flyers for the Philadelphia Daily News. On Twitter: @DNFlyers 

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    Last Updated on Monday, 11 June 2012 17:23