PLAYOFF HOCKEY is
a rite of spring for New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, and because
the Devils make their players stay in hotels during the postseason even when
playing at home, so are meals with his teammates. "You see the guys at
breakfast, lunch, dinner," Brodeur says. "They become your family. But
you also want to see your kids, so you just want to finish the series
quickly." Brodeur did his part last Saturday, helping New Jersey complete a
four-game sweep of the New York Rangers with a 4-2 win in Madison Square
Garden. He has now backstopped the Devils to 15 straight victories dating back
to March 28, and there is no doubt that he is the most feared goalie in the
playoffs. "His net gets smaller when the games get bigger," says
Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr.
turns 34 this Saturday, is second among active goaltenders in career postseason
appearances (148) and on Saturday started in his 137th straight playoff game,
breaking Patrick Roy's NHL record for netminders. His career postseason wins
(88), shutouts (21) and Stanley Cups (3) exceed those of the other 15 Game 1
starters combined. "There's a confidence the guys have in Marty that lets
them play their game," says Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey's coach and general
Rangers was especially satisfying for Brodeur. Although he has long dominated
the Blueshirts in the regular season (he had a 23-game unbeaten streak against
New York from 1997 to 2001), he was 0-3 in playoff series against them.
"All my neighbors are Rangers fans," says Brodeur who raised his arms
in an uncharacteristic show of emotion as Game 4 ended. "My kid's coach is
a Rangers fan. Everywhere I look there are Rangers fans. Anybody in our
dressing room who says it isn't extra sweet to beat them is lying."
Only in New
Jersey's team-first system could a player of Brodeur's stature be so easily
taken for granted. Though he surrendered just four goals in four games against
the Rangers, Brodeur wasn't named the first or second star in any of the
victories. Still, his very presence gives the Devils much of their postseason
poise. "Marty's like the thing in the commercial, the easy button,"
says forward Scott Gomez. "If we do miss assignments and the play breaks
down, we know we have Marty to bail us out."