NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur hopes to celebrate his 40th birthday on Sunday with a win against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal before what is sure to be a packed house at Prudential Center.
Goalie - NJD
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.917
It will mark the fourth time in Brodeur's career that the future Hall of Fame goalie will perform in a playoff game on his birthday.
The Devils lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
"My mom has called me for every single birthday so I don't forget," Brodeur said, smiling. "It's nice [to be playing on my birthday], but last year at this time, I was in Florida. It was nice because you get to see your family, but I'm happy that I'm at home on the day of my birthday.
"I won't celebrate anything though until after the game, and that's it."
Unfortunately, Brodeur hasn't fared very well on the day he was born -- he is 1-2 with a 4.00 goals-against average in three games.
His last birthday appearance was a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the 2006 Conference Semifinal. Brodeur, who has made 180 straight playoff starts, was actually pulled in that game. The Devils would lose that series in five.
His only birthday win came in Game 6 of the 2000 conference semifinal, a 4-3 decision against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a series that New Jersey won in six games. Of course, that was the year Brodeur and the Devils would celebrate their second of three Stanley Cup trophies.
As Brodeur contemplated the ripe old age of 40 with the media, he spoke about his future with the Devils and the burning desire to continue beyond this season. Brodeur will become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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"I'm really enjoying this ride, regardless of what's going to happen in the next month or two," Brodeur said. "I'm enjoying coming to the rink and playing hockey. I don't want to sit back and, five years from now, say I should have played one more year. So that decision on if I'm going to go or not after this season will come later on. As of now, I'm enjoying myself and really liking it."
Brodeur, a first-round draft pick (No. 20) in 1990, hasn't missed a beat despite the fact he's in his 18th season. It's something Devils coach Peter DeBoer doesn't take for granted.
"For a guy in his 40's, he looks a lot better than I do and that's a credit to him," DeBoer, 43, said. "It's amazing the level he's at, especially the number of games he's played. This guy hasn't been a 50-game a year guy … he's 70 or 80, plus playoffs, and that's a lot of games on that body. But it looks like he's not done yet. He's got some years left in him."
Brodeur has rewritten the regular-season record book for goalies by setting marks for career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028). He also surpassed Hall of Famer Patrick Roy with his 24th career playoff shutout in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers in this year's conference quarterfinal round.
His 26-save, 4-0 victory over the Panthers marked his first postseason goose egg since blanking Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was his fourth since shutting out Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, giving the Devils their third title in nine years.
Brodeur was asked if his game has had to evolve over the years.
"It had to change a little bit with the way I play around my crease … I'm not as aggressive the way I used to be," Brodeur said. "I still do a lot of different things that I used to when I was younger. I still play the puck a lot, but I'm also a little more patient and sit back a little more just because hockey is so different now.
"A lot of scoring chances are coming from the goal mouth in, and if you challenge too much, sometimes you get in trouble. I get caught once in a while because it's just old habits that are kind of hard to shake off, but I'm working hard at it."
DeBoer believes Brodeur's ability to remain physically and mentally ready each season has played a huge part in his success.
"Not being around him earlier, it's tough for me to say, but he's still a great puck handler," DeBoer said. "The only thing for me is, I think he's had to take care of himself and get more rest and that's been critical."
DeBoer went on to say that telling Brodeur to take a night off is never easy.
"Sometimes we've had to push him into that because he goes there a little unwillingly, but I think when he looks back, he sees the benefit of that and I think the fact we didn't overplay him during the year has allowed him to play at this level now," DeBoer said.
Brodeur went 31-21-4 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 59 appearances this season, while backup Johan Hedberg was 17-7-2 with a 2.22 GAA and .918 save percentage in 27 games. Brodeur has reached the 30-win mark an NHL record 14 times -- Roy did it 13 times over a career that spanned 18 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche.
"It's just going out there, practicing and challenging yourself to be the best," Brodeur said. "I work hard at it, and just hope that my talent and knowledge of the game will bring me to the level I need to be and that's it."
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