It seemed somehow fitting that New Jersey Devils
goaltender Martin Brodeur
tied Terry Sawchuk
's career shutout record before a national television audience, with Monday's 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres
televised in the United States on Versus.
It was also fitting that the play-by-play announcer for the game was Mike "Doc" Emrick, the 2008 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner as chosen by the Hockey Hall of Fame and lead broadcaster for Devils games since Brodeur made the team full-time as a rookie in the 1993-94 season.
Coaches and teammates have come and gone over the years, but Emrick has been on hand to call shutout after shutout in the record-breaking career that has unfolded for Brodeur ever since.
Emrick had just returned from Philadelphia for his second stint calling Devils games when the fresh-faced Brodeur and a new coach by the name of Jacques Lemaire
joined forces to elevate the Devils from a borderline playoff team to a Stanley Cup contender.
"It was pretty magnificent," Emrick told NHL.com in a phone interview Monday night after calling Brodeur's 103rd shutout. 'When Jacques Lemaire
came in as coach, the team won seven in a row right off the bat and it all kind of evolved at once. I had just joined the team and I remember thinking, 'Wow, these guys are pretty good.'"
Brodeur recorded three shutouts in each of his first two seasons, often platooning in goal with veteran Chris Terreri
, but Emrick pointed to the team's run to its first Stanley Cup title in 1995 as the point where Brodeur really began to evolve.
In Brodeur's first run through the playoffs, he sat for three games in the second round against the Bruins. Lemaire chose to start Terreri, who starred at Providence College, in the games at the old Boston Garden because Brodeur had struggled there during the regular season. The following spring, New Jersey entered a postseason rematch with the Bruins scuffling a bit, and the first two games at the Garden would prove to be pivotal.
"They had faced Buffalo in the last game of the regular season at the old 'Aud' and Marty didn't finish the game (a 5-4 loss)," Emrick said. "They were not finishing very strong going into Boston, but Marty had shutouts in the first two games, 5-0 and 3-0, and they just kept going from there."
Emrick said he didn't remember a lot of particulars from Brodeur's first career shutout, a 4-0 win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Oct. 20, 1993, but mentioned a few of the 1-0 variety he put up against Philadelphia – one of New Jersey's bitter Atlantic Division rivals – and several against Boston.
"Also one or two at the Bell Centre in Montreal … he has always played well in his hometown," Emrick said of the venue where Brodeur tied Roy back in March for most wins before setting the all-time mark the following game at home against Chicago.
As it stands, 21 of Brodeur's shutouts have come by a 1-0 score – more than one-fifth. Also interesting to note is that the second-most shutouts in Devils history is seven, held by the guy Brodeur alternated starts with at the beginning of his career, Terreri.
"They shared the role at first, but the Devils had the good sense to see what they had there in Brodeur," Emrick said. "Not many goalies are built to shoulder the load of 70-plus games every season the way he has."
Emrick also dismissed any notion of the shutout record being contingent on the Devils' propensity for playing the trap and a defensive style of hockey since Lemaire's original tenure behind their bench.
He pointed out that Brodeur has been just as prolific recording shutouts since after the work stoppage and the rules changes that accompanied the game's return – he has 27 since the start of the 2005-06 season, including a career-high of 12 in 2006-07.
"The philosophy in New Jersey has always been defense first, but the rules changes brought with them the notion that scoring would be higher, which it has been to a degree, and that the defensemen can't do as much in front of the net, and that's a fact," Emrick said. "The fact he can continue to rack them up in the new NHL when you're not allowed to play the way you're used to is pretty impressive."
He saw the shutout record as being a bit more personal for Brodeur than passing Roy for most wins. While a goaltender can pick up a victory on an off night easily enough if his team scores enough goals, it's a much bigger challenge to be flawless for an entire 60 minutes.
"I don't think you can steal a shutout," Emrick said. "It doesn't happen as often."