EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -After spending the past seven months chasing and breaking Bernie Parent's single-season NHL record for wins, New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has turned his attention to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Whether it's at practice or team meetings or simply driving home, Brodeur is reviewing every aspect of Tampa Bay's game before Thursday's opener of the best-of-seven, first-round, Eastern Conference series.
That's the way the 34-year-old Brodeur plays hockey - nothing is left to chance. It's how the NHL's second winningest netminder got 494 career wins.
"I'll do my homework," Brodeur said of his preparation for the Lightning, who won three of four against the Devils this season. "A lot of it is in my head. But I'll also look at every single goal they scored on me this season, every save I made on them all year, and I may go back another year."
Brodeur also looks at Tampa Bay's line combinations, their power-play and penalty-killing units, their set plays and then the individual players.
Right off the top of his head, for instance, he knows they only have one or two right-handed shooters.
"It's fun to prepare for playoffs," Brodeur said. "Little things are so important, the tendencies of players. When you do these things, and go out there, you're a step ahead. There are a lot of ways to make plays, and (you) have to know who is capable of doing what."
"You have to read the play before it happens," said Brodeur, who won 48 games to break the single-season mark of 47 set by Parent 33 years ago.
Brodeur doesn't mind discussing his knowledge of the Lightning. He rattled off five things about Lecavalier, who led Tampa Bay with 52 goals and 108 points this season:
- When there is a pass anywhere near him, Lecavalier is going to get it.
- The center has a great one-time shot.
- For a big man, he can shoot the puck well when it is at his feet.
- He has great reach; he'll freeze you, and then take an extra step to set up a better shot.
- During a power play, he'll go behind the net and control the action with his size and spin moves.
Brodeur said the preparation becomes even more intense as series progress.
"You play the first game and you go back to the drawing board, and you figure it out, whether you win or lose," Brodeur said. "That's the beauty of the playoffs. Your focus is just bigger. You see the same guys and the same system and you adjust game by game."
Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said his team can't rely solely on Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards.
"They're a good defensive team," Tortorella said of the Devils. "They play close games. I'm sure they're going to be keeping an eye on Vinnie and Marty, and it goes without saying they're two of our top players. There's going to have to be something else from some other people. Right now, it's not about going through a long year, it's about getting results. If you don't, you're out."
Devils defenseman Richard Matvichuk said Brodeur can drive opponents crazy with a couple of good saves.
"As good as Marty is, with his (Stanley Cup) championships, World Cups and gold medals, he gets in the heads of the other team," Matvichuk said. "They start second-guessing themselves, where they want to shoot the puck because Marty is that good. He can make a save out of nowhere."
The Devils and Tampa Bay have met once in the playoffs, with New Jersey winning an Eastern Conference semifinal series in five games in 2003 en route to winning their third Stanley Cup title. Brodeur allowed eight goals in that series, four in one game.