Martin Brodeur's goal every time he stepped on the ice during a career that likely has him bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame was to set the bar as high as he could for himself and for anyone who came after him. That's why he's so impressed with, and has the utmost respect for, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
Holtby is on the verge of reaching Brodeur's bar. He needs one win in Washington's next five games to tie Brodeur's record for the most wins in one regular season.
Holtby has 47 wins playing in 63 games this season (47-9-5). Brodeur had 48 wins in 78 games in 2006-07 (48-23-7). Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks, 2006-07) and Bernie Parent (Philadelphia Flyers, 1973-74) also won 47 games in a season.
"He would really have to put his face in the ground not to hit it now," Brodeur said this week. "It's pretty impressive, especially with the amount of games he has played. All of us on the chart, we all played over 70 games. To be able to accomplish that in 65 games or so, for him and the team he plays for, it's pretty impressive."
Video: WSH@PHI: Holtby saves Schenn's spinning shot
What's also impressive to Brodeur, now assistant general manager for the St. Louis Blues, is how Holtby has continued to win games that, for the Capitals at least, have no meaning in the standings.
Washington on Monday clinched the Presidents' Trophy when Holtby made 21 saves in a 4-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals are 13 points ahead of the Dallas Stars, who are second in the League standings.
The Capitals clinched first place in the Metropolitan Division on March 22, when Holtby made 28 saves in a 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators. Washington has a 20-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the division.
Holtby made 17 saves in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
"You're facing teams that are fighting for their lives and you don't have to, and you're playing against young teams that have nothing to lose, so that comes into play," Brodeur said. "The last 10 games of the year it's a little bit of a jack in the box because you never know what you're going to get from the teams you're playing. As a goalie, that's the toughest part. But he seems to have these games in the bag for his team."
Brodeur said it could get tougher from here because the Capitals might start resting players to have them fresh for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin April 13.
Washington plays Saturday at the Arizona Coyotes, hosts the New York Islanders on Tuesday and the Penguins on Thursday before closing the season with a back-to-back: next Saturday at the St. Louis Blues and Sunday at home against the Anaheim Ducks in a game rescheduled from January.
"They'll have to think about it, and now you don't have your team anymore, so that's where it becomes harder," Brodeur said. "But I think he's got himself close enough now that he shouldn't worry about that. By himself he should be all right."
Brodeur said he likes Holtby because of how he plays and how often. That says a lot coming from the NHL record-holder for games (1,266) and minutes (74,438) by a goalie.
Video: Martin Brodeur sets single-season wins record with 48
"I feel he's got a presence in net," Brodeur said. "It looks like it's normal for him to steal games. I think his body language is tremendous. That's something that really helps as a goalie. It translates into the other team saying, 'OK, what's going on here? We're getting all these chances and this guy doesn't look like he's fading at all.' He seems to be a really good athlete. He makes saves in different positions. He recovers real well from scrambles. He's a battler and he plays the puck fairly well. He's an active goalie. He checks in a lot of boxes that I like about a goalie."
He might soon check off one of Brodeur's 21 NHL records. But Brodeur is rooting for him.
"You wish you could keep your records forever," he said. "But for me it was all about setting the bar as high as I could. If somebody achieves it, well, good for them. It's impressive.