A Tale of Three Goalies (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday January 8, 2008 11:37AM; Updated: Wednesday January 9, 2008 2:49PM
So who's your guy? The debate would be over in a New York minute if career accomplishments were the only measure. After the Devils' 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers last Friday, Brodeur was a mere 36 wins behind Patrick Roy's career record 551. He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion; he helped Canada win the 2002 Olympic gold medal; and at 35, he is the gold standard for the position, having won three of the last four Vezina Trophies. "You always get a little extra excited when you're facing Marty," Lundqvist says. "He's achieved a lot."
But NHL goaltending is not a snapshot of past accolades, it's a kaleidoscope of the present, continually twirling. Lundqvist, who won the Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006 and has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in each of his first two NHL seasons, has been a linchpin in Manhattan, turning the laggard Rangers into Cup threats. And DiPietro, the first goaltender ever to be drafted No. 1 (in 2000), has become Long Island's goalie for life after signing a 15-year, $67.5 million contract that labeled him as a franchise goalie in a way that's unprecedented. "Ricky has so much confidence that there's no fear of failure," says an Eastern Conference goalies coach. "He's special."
If you wanted one goalie to win a game, you would probably pick Brodeur, whose Devils led the Atlantic Division with 49 points through Sunday. If you wanted a younger goalie as a cornerstone of an organization, you might choose one of the two New Yorkers. (The Rangers and the Islanders were four and five points back, respectively.) "I wouldn't trade Hank for the others," says Rangers winger Brendan Shanahan. "He's technically sound, which should allow him longevity."
Although Marty, Ricky and the King -- three players of different nationalities and with very different styles -- currently rank outside the top five in save percentage and goals-against average, they have played splendidly this season while backstopping three of the NHL's six most anemic attacks. The netminders' margin for error is minuscule. They figuratively play without a net most nights. According to that Eastern Conference goalies coach, all three rate among the top six in the league. Just don't ask the coach to rank them.
A Brodeur save -- he had made 27,238 of them in his regular-season and playoff career -- is like a snowflake: No two are exactly alike. He goes down on one knee (usually the right). He stands up, like a goalie from the early '80s. He employs the butterfly on occasion. He even stacks his pads. There is nothing formulaic to the 6' 2", 215-pound Brodeur's style, no signature play like a Mays basket catch. He simply makes the save that every shot warrants. Throughout the years he has appropriated elements from other goalies -- Felix Potvin's paddle down, Ron Hextall's puck moving, Dominik Hasek's intelligent scrambling -- and fused them into something unique. His singular advantage, of course, is an ability to read the game at a higher level than his peers, the hockey equivalent of tackling Ulysses without explanatory notes. Says another Eastern Conference goalies coach, "He's seeing things happening before they actually occur. That's the nirvana of goaltending. When a goalie gets to that level, he can play forever."