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Marty's athleticism, stickhandling cause foes to worry

Thursday, 03.12.2009 / 10:00 AM / Brodeur Watch

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"You have to realize, they changed the rules because of the guy."
-- New York’s Scott Gomez

Upon first look, Martin Brodeur doesn't appear all that intimidating.

He's a healthy 6-feet, 2 inches and 215 pounds, but he's undeniably one of the most forthcoming and friendly goaltenders to ever play in the NHL. He doesn't have bulging muscles, large tattoos or whacked out hair.

It's not until Brodeur straps on his smelly and relatively small pads, pulls his New Jersey Devils sweater over his shoulders and skates onto the ice that he turns into a super hero.

Essentially, the dressing room is his phone booth.

"You have to realize," Rangers center Scott Gomez told NHL.com, "they changed the rules because of the guy."

Gomez is exactly right. Brodeur's unbelievable skill in handling the puck is largely the reason for the trapezoid area behind the net that now restricts goalies from straying more than just a few feet from their crease.

Even with the new rule boxing him in, gameplanning for the New Jersey Devils is still very much about Brodeur. Whether it's his stickhandling, athleticism, control, vision, success and, yes, even size, many NHL players believe Brodeur owns the mental edge for that night's game before he even steps on the ice.

He's Superman with a mask.

"Unfortunately I've had the opportunity to play against him quite a bit and he's definitely stolen games for them," Toronto Maple Leafs center Jason Blake told NHL.com. "He powers that hockey team. He can change the whole tone of the game."

A lot of goalies can, but few bring the cachet into the crease that Brodeur does. It's why Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla believes Brodeur forces the opponents to think rather than just react.

"I think you can try to aim it at him," Iginla said. "A lot of times you shoot it hard and when you're feeling it you just find a hole, but (against Brodeur) you can psych yourself out, or give him a little too much credit."

That's for the shooters. The game plan can get complex for teams that thrive on the dump and chase, which is a staple for a lot of NHL teams.

"The rules helped us a bit to not have him playing the puck as much, but you can not dump the puck to him," Dallas center Mike Ribeiro told NHL.com. "He's probably their best defenseman out there. You have to have smarter dumps and keep it away from him. You have to talk to him a bit to try to get him out of his game, but he's so good mentally that it's hard to do. That's why they always have one of the best defensive teams in the League."

Blake remembers when he was with the Islanders, the focus in meetings before games against New Jersey always centered on Brodeur.

Even with emergence of Zach Parise, it probably still does.

"He plays the puck like a defenseman back there and he's done it for a number of years," Blake said. "He's really active in net. If you shoot it, you have to go to the net and get a rebound. It's tough to score on him, there's no doubt about it.

"You want to think of him as just another goalie, but obviously you're playing against a world-class goalie. He can start their breakout just like a defenseman."

Rangers captain Chris Drury said Brodeur's ability to act a third defenseman is an even greater concern when the Devils are on a power play.

"If you ice it on a PK, you can't just skate off," Drury told NHL.com. "You almost have to keep one forward out there to make sure he's not flinging it up for a breakaway. It's definitely something that is mentioned before a game."

Blake mentioned how players have to go to the net and scrap for loose change in front of Brodeur, but that's not easy either. For years Brodeur has been one of the best at steering the puck in the direction he wants it to go. He rarely gives up a bad rebound goal.
"You want to think of him as just another goalie, but obviously you're playing against a world-class goalie. He can start their breakout just like a defenseman." -- Toronto's Jason Blake
"Marty Brodeur has started more rushes out of his team's end than any other goalie because he knows how to get it out," Devils broadcaster and former goalie Chico Resch told NHL.com.

One would think creating traffic in front of Brodeur is the easiest way to beat him. After all, creating traffic in front of a net is the formulaic way to beat most goalies no matter the age, experience and success.

Again, with Brodeur it's a little more complicated than that.

"You talk about the way he plays the puck, but that's not mentioning how he stops it," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. "There is nothing you can really do except get shots in traffic on him, but when Marty is on his game you can get as many shots as you want in traffic and somehow he seems to make the save."

Atlanta Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk mentioned another concern: Brodeur the athlete.

"I know a lot of the guys who have played with him and they tell me he could probably play any sport," Kovalchuk told NHL.com. "That's unusual for a goalie because usually goalies aren't that athletic."

Athleticism. Stick handling. Control. Vision. Success. Size.

When you're talking about Brodeur, it all equals intimidation.

"You have to prepare your game a little bit different to play a goalie like him," Morrow said. "That's the intimidation. You have to change your style to suit one player."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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