|The New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur has registered his third straight 40-win season. Martin Brodeur Highlights|
Only, he bases his on consistency rather than quirkiness.
Before every game, Brodeur stacks his leg pads in front of his locker as he dresses. Seems pretty normal, but there is a message in his actions: Go about your own business, fellas, because Marty's got his area under control.
"It's hard to play a certain way when other people are not doing certain things or there is chaos going on somewhere," Brodeur said. "That's why when I get dressed I put my pads up and I'm like, nobody steps around here. This is all me. This is my crease and I'll take care of it. If you don't take care of what you do, don't worry because I'll still be taking care of this area."
Nobody takes care of business better.
Brodeur's career regular-season numbers – 534 wins, 96 shutouts, seven 40-win seasons – obviously are outstanding. However, with the playoffs looming we delved further and found the most staggering number of them all to define the unique consistency Brodeur has displayed since 1994.
He has appeared in 164 career playoff games, and if the tournament began today, the seven other projected starting goalies for Eastern Conference teams would have a combined 49 playoff appearances.
That's better than a 3-to-1 advantage for one player against a group of seven.
"That's why, in New Jersey, we have a chance every year," former Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said. "It doesn't mean it's going to happen or Marty is going to be perfect, but certainly he's been the model of consistency."
Daneyko should know. Brodeur helped the gritty defenseman win three Stanley Cups before Daneyko retired in 2003.
"He's as important as three starting pitchers," Daneyko says. "You can even have 10 Wayne Gretzky's and five Bobby Orr's to play the point, but that doesn't mean you'll win if you don't have a good goalie."
Brodeur doesn't believe his experience is a factor early in the playoffs. Every goalie is excited and rejuvenated in the first round, and each organization does its best to limit any distractions.
The further the Devils go, though, the more Brodeur's experience matters.
Carolina's Cam Ward, who won the Stanley Cup in 2006, is the only other No. 1 goalie in the Eastern Conference playoff chase that knows what the postseason grind is all about. Martin Gerber experienced it with Ottawa last season, but he sat behind Ray Emery.
Being the No. 2 isn't taxing if the No. 1 is producing.
"The travel at the end, the media attention, the pressure, the family and friends – this is something that if you have never dealt with, it's overwhelming," Brodeur said. "It's an awesome time, don't get me wrong, but for an athlete, it's not an easy time."
Brodeur has reached the Stanley Cup Final four times in his career, winning three and going to a Game 7 in the other.
He believes his consistency is a result of his durability, which has been dumbfounding.
Since taking over as New Jersey's No. 1 goalie in the 1994-95 season, Brodeur has appeared in 88.7 percent of the Devils' regular-season games (908 of 1,023 entering this past weekend) and owns 90.3 percent of their victories (505 of 559). In the same time span, he has appeared in every one of the Devils' 146 playoff games and owns all 86 wins.
"Consistency in your play is one thing, but being durable is one of the things I take a lot of pride in," Brodeur said. "That goes with playing a lot of games and being focused on what you do, not just taking it for granted that this is going to happen.
"Patrick Roy was one of the most consistent goalies to ever play the game because he never got hurt, he played a lot of games and was successful year in and year out. He wasn't the best every year, but you know what? He was always in the top.
They do, Marty, they do.
"You know when you have those guys on the team, no matter what the situation is, they're going to let it go," said Rangers center Scott Gomez, who played his first seven NHL seasons with Brodeur behind him. "The thing with Marty is, it didn't matter if it's a shutout or he lets in five, he'd always have the same demeanor."
Brodeur said balance comes easily because he knows and understands his game better than anyone else. He doesn't rely on anyone – even long-time goalie coach Jacques Caron – for an honest assessment. And he rarely reads what people write about him.
"I look at certain things to judge my game and I'm really, really honest," Brodeur said. "For instance, take the Minnesota game (March 13). They scored the first two goals and they were two good goals, so nobody complained, but I know I wasn't doing the right thing when the puck came at me. I was moving forward, and when you're a goalie moving forward it's hard to react. I should have taken my time to stop before the shot came in.
"One of the best things I've done in my career is really to know my own game instead of having people tell me what I did right or what I did wrong."
As long as Brodeur keeps stacking his pads, the Devils have a chance.
"The guys in front of him believe that because they have that guy there, they have a shot," Daneyko said. "Is that an advantage? It has to be."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.