Martin Brodeur is, if not the best, one of the best goalies to ever play in the National Hockey League. He has captured three Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies, and holds all-time records for most wins, shutouts, and games played. At 40 years old, and having played 18 NHL seasons, Brodeur’s career is nearing its end, even if the future Hall of Famer decides to play in 2012-13. When the puck drops for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a worthy adversary will be 200 feet away from Brodeur, and perhaps the man who will be the league’s best goalie for the foreseeable future.
Since coming into the NHL after the lockout, Henrik Lundqvist has been the league’s most consistent goaltender. Including this season, he has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy four times, he is a nominee for the Hart Trophy as league MVP this season, and for the first time in his career, will be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. While this season has provided many new challenges and new highs for ‘King Henrik’, one thing that hasn’t been foreign to him is success against the Devils and their future Hall of Fame goaltender.
Since Lundqvist entered the league, his regular season record against Brodeur stands at a remarkable 23-6-5. Remarkable because Lundqvist, as a young goalie, was able to have so much success against a goalie that has the most wins in league history. And even more remarkable because it was Brodeur who held the Rangers winless for almost four straight years when the Blueshirts’ roster included the likes of Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch, and Mike Richter.
If you ask Brodeur, he will tell you that Lundqvist is the best in the league today. It’s hard to argue, since Lundqvist’s regular season and post season have been nothing short of spectacular. The Rangers’ goalie finished in the top five in the NHL in wins, goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts during the regular season, and his 1.68 GAA and .937 save percentage through two rounds of the playoffs this season have put the Rangers in the NHL’s final four.
In their two previous head-to-head matchups in the playoffs, Lundqvist and Brodeur each have one series win, with the Devils sweeping the Rangers in the 2006 quarterfinals, and the Rangers beating the Devils in five games in the 2008 Quarterfinals. In Round 3, whichever goalie wins will be another four wins away from the Cup. If it’s Brodeur, it would be four wins away from perhaps the perfect ending to a storied career. If it’s Lundqvist, then it could be the beginning of playoff success for the best goalie in the game today.
Make no mistake about it, Martin Brodeur is one of the best to have ever played, and it will be a while before another goalie currently playing in the NHL or someone in the future comes along and duplicates what he has done. However, Lundqvist’s star is shining at its brightest right now, and the torch for goaltending supremacy will be going across the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York after the latest chapter in the Rangers-Devils and Lundqvist-Brodeur saga is written.