If Martin Brodeur
had his sights set solely on winning 552 games, the New Jersey Devils
would be in a world of trouble.
When Brodeur wins his 14th game of this season he will overtake Patrick Roy
for No. 1 on the NHL's all-time wins list. He's also eight shutouts away from breaking Terry Sawchuk
's NHL record of 103.
While 103 and especially 552 represent significant numbers in NHL history, Brodeur can't overstate how insignificant he hopes to make them.
"It'll be a great number, an unbelievable number actually, but it stays there," Brodeur said of Roy's record. "I'm not only looking to win 552 games in the NHL."
Two and a half weeks after the New York Rangers
eliminated the Devils from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, Brodeur turned 36. He's lived his childhood dream infinity times over, but on the eve of his 15th NHL season, one that should be a record-setting, Brodeur admitted he's still a dreamer.
"Oh yeah," said the goalie who has won just about everything a goalie can win in North America short of a Memorial Cup and a World Junior Championship. "(I dream) to win again."
It's been five years since the Devils last hoisted the Stanley Cup, and now that Sergei Brylin
is playing in Russia, Brodeur remains the only member of the team to have played on all three championship squads dating to 1995.
The one-time recognizable defense that included Scott Stevens
, Scott Niedermayer
, Ken Daneyko and Brian Rafalski
is long gone. In place of it is a somewhat anonymous group including Paul Martin
, Bryce Salvador
, Mike Mottau
, Andy Greene
, Sheldon Brookbank
and Johnny Oduya
is the only Devils' defenseman who played in front of Brodeur on a Stanley Cup winner. The other six have played in a combined 100 playoff games, but 41 of those belong to Salvador, the former St. Louis Blue, and 30 are Martin's.
Despite the obvious contrasts between his former blue-line unit and the one the Devils currently employ, the numbers show that Brodeur, who has 169 playoff games dotting his resumé, is somehow better than ever.
Entering the NHL lockout in 2004, Brodeur's career goals against average was 2.17 and he was winning 36 games per season while playing in 67 games. Despite facing about 400 more shots per season since the lockout, Brodeur's GAA has jumped to only 2.20 and he is averaging 45 wins while playing 76 games per season.
Remarkably, Brodeur said he hasn't changed one bit.
"The game changed," he offered instead. "We see more shots and more power plays, so I have no choice. It is not my fault that we were so good (before the lockout), allowing only 19 shots a game. I loved it. Now I just have to work a little harder, that's really it. I just need to do a little more because we're not as deep as we used to be."
Sometimes, though, an aging veteran, even a future Hall of Famer, doesn't want to do more at 36 than he did at 26. Brodeur still does, and that's what makes him unique.
"He just wants to win Stanley Cups," Tampa Bay Lightning
center Vincent Lecavalier
said. "That's what makes him a champion."
Brodeur dreams of being a champion again, but not for himself.
He said one of the things that haunts him still is not winning either Games 6 or 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Final, because those two losses cost his backup at the time, John Vanbiesbrouck
, a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
"That kills me the most," Brodeur said. "The guy had never won a Stanley Cup and I could have won one for him and I lost it. It's a big drive for me to be able to give it to someone else."
So now Brodeur is playing for Kevin Weekes
, for his no-name defense, for Zach Parise
and Travis Zajac
, and for David Clarkson
and Dainius Zubrus
"I'm telling you, after you play as a team and win as a team, that feeling to do it again is what drives you," Brodeur said. "At some point that flame won't be there any more and that's going to be the time when it's over. Right now I still have it. I care."
He cares about the records, too, but Brodeur has never been motivated by personal goals. It's not the Devil way, and nobody defines the Devils better than Martin Brodeur
"We'll go for them and hopefully we'll get them," Brodeur said, "but for a goalie, the beauty is everybody is going to benefit by me getting these records."