During the offseason, The Hockey Writers will be doing a ten-part series on the success stories of the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils. Despite missing the postseason for the second consecutive spring, the Devils had a memorable season. The third success story focuses on Martin Brodeur in what could have been his final season with Jersey’s Team.
An Early Struggle
After the passing of his father during the pre-season, Brodeur did not start the season opener for the Devils for the first time since Chris Terreri stood in the crease against the Tampa Bay Lightning to open the 1993-94 season. Instead, Brodeur started the home opener the following evening and in what would become a theme for the Devils, fell in a shootout.
Like the team, Brodeur struggled early on in the season. The 41-year old net minder dropped his first four games before he finally broke through in the win column. Despite allowing three goals in the first period at the Boston Bruins, Brodeur held on and stopped 25 of 28 shots including everything that came his way in the final two frames. This gave the Devils all the time they would need to rally from a 3-1 deficit and defeat the defending Eastern Conference Champions 4-3.
Martin Brodeur Increases His Record Win Total; Last Starts at MSG and the Bell Centre?
Brodeur followed that up with another win, this time at the Prudential Center, as he made 16 saves in a Devils 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the Devils clinging to their one-goal lead in the 3rd, Brodeur slid to his left and made a sparkling left pad save on a shot by Valtteri Filppula to keep the Devils ahead. This also enabled Jaromir Jagr’s second period goal to stand up as the game-winner, his first with New Jersey.
Brodeur had a personal five-game winning streak from November 7 through November 20, a season high. The streak opened with back-to-back shutouts. The first was against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center where he turned aside all 22 shots he faced. Three days later he made 15 saves as the Devils dominated the Nashville Predators in a 5-0 win. This was Brodeur’s first career shutout against the Predators leaving the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks as the only two teams Brodeur has never recorded a shutout (excluding New Jersey). Brodeur followed up his two shutouts with a remarkable performance at Madison Square Garden. He faced a season-high 35 shots and stopped 33 of them as New Jersey prevailed over the New York Rangers 3-2.
Brodeur closed out the calendar year by winning five of his last seven starts. He won perhaps his final game at the Garden with the Devils on December 7, a 4-3 overtime win over the Rangers. On December 14 he stopped 33 shots in a 3-0 Devils victory of the Lightning at the Rock. His 124th career shutout, this was his third and last shutout of the season.
In what could end up being his final start in his home city of Montreal, Brodeur turned back to the clock with a vintage performance. On January 14, Brodeur turned aside 29 of 30 shots including a key third period save on Max Pacioretty for his 45th career win over the Montreal Canadiens. Brodeur was named the first star of the game and skated off to a standing ovation reminiscent of the one he received at the Bell Centre when he tied the all-time wins record, held by Patrick Roy with 551 career wins, on March 14, 2009.
Martin Brodeur skates off the Bell Centre ice as the Montreal faithful gives him a standing ovation:
Dark Clouds Hover Over #30 and Jersey’s Team as the NHL Trade Deadline Looms;
Martin Brodeur Responds With Wins
Brodeur lost his next two games including a rough outing at Yankee Stadium in the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series. He was pulled after the second period and was replaced by Cory Schneider. He did not start any of the six games entering the Olympic Break and grew frustrated with his lack of playing time. As the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 got closer, rumors swirled about the fate of the all-time wins leader among NHL goaltenders. Brodeur had already conceded Schneider was the number one goaltender in October before he regained control of the crease. Brodeur also revealed in November he would be willing to waive his “no-trade clause” around the deadline if he would get more playing time elsewhere but that his priority was to remain with New Jersey and help them reach the playoffs.
The Devils traveled to Long Island on March 1 and Brodeur would start the game with rumors abound about the possibility that this would be his final start with the only franchise he has ever known. Just two games, a battle at the Prudential Center the following day against the San Jose Sharks that Schneider was already going to start and a Tuesday night match-up with the Detroit Red Wings at the Rock, stood between this game and the trade deadline. With no guarantees that he would start the game on Tuesday night against Detroit, Devils fans flocked to Nassau Coliseum to get a glimpse of their legendary goaltender.
They would witness history but not the kind they expected. While Brodeur stopped all ten shots he faced in a first period dominated by the New York Islanders and 18 of the 19 he faced through the game, the Devils other legend reached a historic milestone. With the Devils ahead 1-0, Jagr skated to the slot early in the second period and scored his 700th career goal. The goal would end up as the game-winner in the Devils 6-1 victory.
After Schneider and the Devils lost the following day, Brodeur was named the starter for Tuesday night’s game against Detroit. It would be Brodeur’s first start at the Rock in nearly two months. The same rumors that hovered above Brodeur and the Devils entering Saturday’s game reappeared. Would this be Brodeur’s last start ever for New Jersey? Would he be traded following the game or at some point the next day?
A sellout crowd of 16,592 filled the Prudential Center and Brodeur received a warm ovation as he took the net for warm-ups. The cheers were louder when he was introduced in the starting lineup just prior to puck drop. Throughout the game Brodeur was serenaded with cheers and chants as the flashbulbs went off like fireworks throughout the seven-year old arena. Meanwhile on the ice, the Devils jumped out to an early lead just 27 seconds into the game courtesy of an Adam Henrique goal. The Red Wings tied it later in the first and went ahead in the second. New Jersey entered the final frame down 2-1 but Marek Zidlicky tied it 41 seconds in. A spectacular rebound goal by Travis Zajac put the Devils ahead at 6:30 but Todd Bertuzzi scored on the power-play later in the period to knot the game at three apiece. As the tension mounted, the Devils came through with a last minute victory when Stephen Gionta redirected Mark Fayne’s shot into the net with 37 seconds remaining. Brodeur’s turned aside 20 of 23 shots in his 684th career victory.
As it would turn out, Brodeur remained with the Devils and actually started the team’s next home game four nights later. New Jersey defeated the Carolina Hurricanes as new Devil Tuomo Ruutu potted the game-winner against his former team at the 13:30 mark of the third period, just a minute after the Hurricanes had tied the game. The Devils won 5-4 with Brodeur stopping 29 of the Hurricanes 33 shots on goal.
With the Devils playoff hopes fading, coach Peter DeBoer turned to Brodeur again in a crucial battle at the Wells Fargo Center on March 11 against the Flyers. The third star of the game, Brodeur made 30 saves in the Devils 2-1 victory including all 13 he faced in the final frame.
Brodeur and the Devils struggled down the stretch, however, as their playoff hopes slowly vanished. On March 31 on home ice against the Panthers, the Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Florida valiantly fought back. The Devils tempered the rally and took a 4-2 lead when Ryane Clowe scored but the Panthers responded with another goal. In a move that was directed at his team and not Brodeur, DeBoer replaced Brodeur with Schneider despite winning 4-3 hoping it would spark the 18 skaters in front of the crease. It worked. Schneider stopped all 13 shots that came his way and Zajac would eventually complete his first career hat trick in the Devils 6-3 victory. Despite being pulled, Brodeur got credit for the victory in one of the weirdest games in his career.
As the season winded down, Schneider took the reign in the crease. He started the team’s next five games but during that stretch the Devils were officially eliminated. With two games remaining in their season, and both on home ice, DeBoer gave the starting nod to Brodeur in at least the first game against the Islanders, an eventual 3-2 Islanders shootout win. The following day after practice, DeBoer revealed the starter for the season finale and with little surprise, it would be Martin Brodeur.
A Career That Comes Full Circle In Possibly Martin Brodeur’s Final Game with the New Jersey Devils
12 years, 2 weeks, and 4 days after Brodeur, in the Devils original red, white, and green jersey, stopped 24 of 26 shots in his NHL debut against the Boston Bruins at Brendan Byrne Arena; he took to the ice at the Prudential Center against the same opponent. Zidlicky opened the scoring for New Jersey with a highlight worthy wraparound goal but Loui Eriksson tied it up for Boston late in the opening period. After a scoreless second, the Devils, with nothing to lose at this point, came at the Bruins hard to open the final frame and took the lead with Zajac redirecting the puck into the net for his 18th goal of the season. In arguably his best save of the night, Brodeur robbed call-up Alexander Khokhlachev when he gloved the young center’s wrister from the slot. A little over two minutes later Brodeur’s save looked even bigger when Zidlicky blasted the puck past goaltender Tuuka Rask for his second goal of the game.
The final 13 seconds and the post-game ovation for Martin Brodeur following the season finale:
With a two-goal lead, “Marty’s better,” “Thank you Marty,” and simply, “Marty,” chants rained down from the 16,592 fans in attendance as the clock ticked down. The Bruins temporarily put a damper on the emotional ending when they scored to make it 3-2 with 16 seconds remaining but it did little to quiet the teary-eyed crowd. As the final horn sounded on Brodeur’s 688th career victory, all with New Jersey, the all-time winningest goaltender in NHL history was the recipient of a standing ovation. With 16 saves on 18 shots, Brodeur was named the game’s first star and skated out from the corridor leading to the dressing room to what could end up being his final curtain call as a player for the New Jersey Devils.