As Ottawa Senators left wing Magnus Arvedson can testify, Martin Brodeur is a criminal. Early in the second period of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals last Saturday, Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils goaltender, was lying on his stomach in the crease when he reached out with his glove hand and deflected Arvedson's shot away from the wide-open net. It was robbery, but Brodeur can't swear to what happened. "My eyes were closed," he says.
With a 3-2 series lead over Ottawa, following a 3-1 loss to the Senators in Game 5 on Monday night, the Devils were on the verge of their third trip to the Stanley Cup finals in four years, but with Anaheim's J.S. Giguere mugging the heavily favored clubs in the Western Conference, Brodeur has been the other goalie in the postseason. "He's part of a new breed, and it's great for hockey that people talk about him," Brodeur, 31, says of the 26-year-old Giguere. "I'm not a young buck anymore."
Brodeur, who led New Jersey to Cups in 1995 and 2000, may not be as young as he used to be, but he still has his looks. He was brilliant in the regular season (2.02 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage), during which he won 40 or more games (41 to be exact) for an NHL-record fourth time. Last week Brodeur was announced as a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies for top goaltender and league MVP, respectively. Surprisingly, he has never won either award. "After coaching him, I'm wondering why," says Pat Burns, the Devils' first-year bench boss, who has won the Jack Adams Award as best coach in Montreal (1988-89), Toronto ('92-93) and Boston ('97-98).
Giguere's play isn't the only news that has overshadowed Brodeur's postseason performance. During New Jersey's last Cup run Brodeur's wife, Melanie, and their kids (Anthony, now seven, and William and Jeremy, six) got nearly as much face time on TV for their cheering from the stands as Brodeur got for stopping pucks. But last month Le Journal de Montreal reported that the marriage was over because Brodeur had had an affair with Melanie's brother's wife. (Other than acknowledging that he and Melanie separated in December, Brodeur hasn't discussed the soap opera in detail since the story broke.)
Despite the media attention and predictable taunts from fans on the road, Brodeur has kept his focus. And because the Devils' scoring ability is usually more like that of a World Cup than a Stanley Cup contender, Brodeur has a smaller margin for error than any goalie east of Anaheim. "If we make a mistake, he will fix it," says Burns. "I've run out of words to describe him."