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Final four goalies playing at superhero levels

by Ken Baker

The four remaining goalies in the hunt for the Stanley Cup all have played like puck-stopping superheroes to get their teams to the conference finals.

Indeed, as "The Avengers" movie has been blowing up the box office, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles have been starring in that other blockbuster known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And like their movie hero counterparts, each goalie in this action adventure possesses special powers which make him a uniquely talented force with which to be reckoned.

Behold, "The Avengers -- NHL Playoff Goalie Edition:"

The Avengers (Courtesy: Disney)

Martin Brodeur as Iron Man -- And not just because they both sport red protective gear. Brodeur is the aging genius whose combination of the science and art (and wit) of goaltending makes him a formidable foe. Billionaire Tony Stark transforms into an invincible force when in his armored suit. Likewise, Brodeur is a relatively physically unspectacular 40-year-old in street clothes, but on the ice his legendary Sher-Wood equipment looks more like Sher-Iron.

Mike Smith as The Incredible Hulk -- We've seen his temper, those bursts of anger after getting bumped where he headlocks opponents or chops his lumber. His outbursts helped lead him to top all NHL goalies in penalty minutes (16) this season. But his size alone -- 6-foot-4, 218 pounds -- makes this hulking mass of goaltending a force with which to be reckoned. Teams should just be happy Smith doesn't play for the Wild or Stars -- all that green might be just too unsettling.

Henrik Lundqvist as Thor -- That long mane of wind-blown hair isn't the only thing New York's goalie god has in common with Chris Hemsworth's "God of Thunder." Lundqvist presents a frustratingly perfect storm for the Devils: Just enough size (6-foot-1) to plug the net, a rigid, wide-stance style that keeps him more square than a Mensa convention, and superior puck-tracking skills that allow him to read plays like a book. And let's not forget: Hank is a Swede and, well, Thor is a Norse deity, after all.

Jonathan Quick as Captain America -- The best goalie ever to come out of Connecticut (OK, maybe the only one, but still ...), Quick has established himself as the front-runner for the starting job for the United States team at the 2014 Olympics. He combines the agility of a gymnast with the leg power of a fullback and the flexibility of a ballerina -- a seemingly super-human trifecta creating the heroics of Captain Quick. You've got to wonder if the Los Angeles water supply contains some sort of experimental serum. Just sayin' ...

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