The Devils' workhorse goaltender, Martin Brodeur, is SI's choice as the midseason MVP
On New Year's eve New Jersey Devils backup goalie Corey Schwab was placed on injured reserve, the hockey equivalent of a tree falling in the woods with nobody around to hear it. Who was going to miss a guy who had appeared in only 13 of his 117 games with the team? That's what happens when you're playing behind Martin Brodeur, who since the start of the 2001-02 season has been in net for 90% of his team's matches—more than any other NHL netminder over that span—including 39 of the Devils' first 41 this season. Brodeur's also started the franchise's last 128 playoff games. It's a remarkable workload by the standards of today's goal-tenders, none of whom have it easier than Schwab and rookie Ari Ahonen, who's filling in—so to speak, since he hasn't played a minute—while Schwab recovers from a pulled groin.
"I take a lot of pride in being durable," says Brodeur, who last June led the Devils to their third Stanley Cup since 1995. "But I always say that [defenseman] Scott Stevens plays a lot harder than I do, and he plays 82 games a year."
Brodeur, 31, is SI's pick as midseason MVP. At week's end he had a league-leading 20 victories, putting him on track for a record eighth-straight season with 35 or more wins. His goals-against average was a sparkling 1.82, and with nine shutouts Brodeur was on pace to have the most since George Hainsworth had 22 in 1928-29.
Brodeur's durability defies logic. While teammates drink protein shakes and Powerade between periods, Brodeur, who is a doughy 6'2" and 215 pounds, swills Sprite. "I don't look like a model, but the way I practice allows me to stay healthy," says Brodeur, an 11-year vet. "I practice like I play in a game, so it's no shock to my body when it's time to play."
Brodeur is making progress toward Patrick Roy's alltime NHL records for games played (1,029) and wins (551). Based on his career averages, Brodeur, who had played in 704 matches with 385 victories, could catch Roy before he turns 37. "It's mind-boggling," Brodeur says. "But I'll look at that when I retire. I have more Cups to win."