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Brodeur's milestone a treat for viewers

Tuesday, 03.17.2009 / 9:42 PM / Brodeur Watch

By John Kreiser - Columnist

NHL Network viewers got two unexpected bonuses Tuesday night: They were able to watch Martin Brodeur make history with his 552nd career victory as the New Jersey Devils beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2.

And they got to hear Mike "Doc" Emrick call it.

Emrick and partner Glenn "Chico" Resch, who do the Devils locally on MSG Plus, were at their best on a night that saw Brodeur move past Patrick Roy into first place for regular-season victories. They were concise and to the point.

"One more, it's blocked … and Marty Brodeur is the winningest goaltender in the NHL," was Emrick's call as the final horn went off. As his teammates gathered around him and the crowd chanted "Marty, Marty," and "Marty's Better," both men let the scene speak for itself, staying silent for about 90 seconds and letting the crowd provide the sound.

The silence was broken when Emrick noticed Brodeur cutting the top of the net and noted that this was something he'd never seen in his long career broadcasting hockey, adding with a chuckle that, "If he breaks the shutout record (103, held by Terry Sawchuk), maybe a chain saw."

There's no one better at big events like this than Emrick, the NHL's most identifiable voice in the U.S. because of his work on the League's national telecasts. But Emrick has also been the Devils' play-by-play voice since 1993-94 -- ironically, the same season Brodeur became a full-time Devil.  So with the NHL Network picking up the MSG Plus telecast (shown locally in the New York-Northern New Jersey market), out-of-town fans had the benefit of listening to someone with the perspective that goes along with calling big games as well as the intimate knowledge of a team gleaned only by someone who's with the club on a regular basis.

Emrick is hockey's version of baseball's Vin Scully -- he's always exceptionally well-prepared, has a voice that's distinctly "his," weaves stories and history into his play-by-play without missing a beat and knows when to let the pictures and sound tell the story without intruding. His minimalist style showed best on the Devils' second goal, by Travis Zajac at 6:01 of the first period off a feed from Zach Parise: "Parise threw one in front … score … Zajac … 2-0" -- after which he let Resch, his longtime partner, analyze the scoring play.

NHL Network studio hosts Brian Duff and Dave Reid (who added useful perspective with references to having played against Brodeur) had a different perspective than local hosts Steve Cangialosi and former Devil Ken Danyeko. Reid noted before the game that games like this are a "very difficult time to keep your focus," and said later that for the Devils, it would be "much more of a mental game than it will be physical." Daneyko, who spent his entire playing career with the Devils, was more focused on the atmosphere at the Prudential Center -- he described it as "like a Stanley Cup playoff game -- the crowd has been buzzing since 6 o'clock."

Emrick offered an interesting perspective on Brodeur midway through the second period when he rhetorically asked Resch (a Cup-winning goalie during his playing days): "How jumpy would you be if you had to face 29,003 shots during the regular-season and playoffs?" then noted that Brodeur had stopped "92 percent of them."

Resch, not surprisingly, is at his best describing plays around the net. After Brodeur made a pair of stops on a 3-on-1 second-period break, he aptly noted that if Brodeur were a strictly butterfly goaltender "he'd have been run over." Emrick, who's worked with Resch longer than most play-by-play/analyst tandems, was able to make time to let Resch (accurately) demonstrate his point -- all without disrupting the flow of the telecast.

Resch, who probably knows Brodeur better than anyone in the media, also described Brodeur's pre-game routine, which includes the customary (for hockey players) afternoon nap and some TV viewing. Emrick, whose sense of humor runs toward the dry side, deadpanned, "does anybody know what he watched? We have a lot of stuff on Marty, but we don't know. It probably wasn't replays of old games."

Between periods, Reid noted that he liked the way Chicago was playing, "they're pushing Martin Brodeur a little more … but New Jersey is still New Jersey; not a lot of rebounds. They're still playing the same way and Marty's having another solid game." Reid also noted that Brodeur "forces the shooter to make the perfect shot every time."

During the third period, Emrick and Resch discussed the popular topic of whether Roy or Brodeur (or someone else) is the greatest goaltender of all time. "It's wonderful that they're all in the same solar system, and for a while, they were in the League together," Emrick said, "Debates are fun, but you've got to look at the body of work by the New Jersey goaltender."

Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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