VOORHEES, N.J. -- The guy in the opposition net is a little slower, a little bigger and a week away from his 40th birthday. In the regular season he won just six more games than he lost, had only the 15th-best goals-against average and a save percentage that ranked 34th among the 45 qualifying goalies.
Some even have dared to whisper that he might not even be the best goalie on his own team.
But at the end of the day, he's still Martin Brodeur, a certain Hall of Famer, the winningest goalie in NHL history and a three-time Stanley Cup champion who has beaten the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals on the way to two of those Cups.
FLYERS VS. DEVILS
Division rivals battle in Conference Semis
By Adam Kimelman and Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com
There won't be many secrets when the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Not only are the two teams separated by less than 100 miles, they see each other six times a season as rivals in the Atlantic Division. READ MORE ›
That reputation and resume is enough to keep the Flyers on their toes heading into Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).
"He's proven time and time again he's a very capable goalie," defenseman Matt Carle said. "One of the best -- arguably the best -- to ever play. Not something you want to take lightly."
"It's Marty Brodeur," Danny Briere said. "We saw what he did in Game 7 [against the Florida Panthers]. … Probably, if not the best goalie that's ever played, in my mind him and Patrick Roy are right up there. Everything he's done, all the records he's broken -- it's pretty impressive."
Brodeur is the League's all-time leader in regular-season wins, shutouts and games played by a goalie. But in his 19th season, he was slightly less impressive than usual in the regular season, going 31-21-4 with a 2.41 GAA and .908 save percentage while playing just 59 games. He had three shutouts, the fewest in a season since his four-game NHL debut in 1991-92. Brodeur played only four of the six games against the Flyers this season, going 1-3-0 with a 2.26 GAA and .905 save percentage.
But if there's been any slippage in his game, no one on the Flyers has noticed. The aura that surrounds him hasn't faded a bit.
"I watched the last two games against Florida and he looked good," Briere said.
In winning Games 6 and 7 against the Panthers, Brodeur allowed just four goals on 61 shots, and held strong into double overtime in Game 7. In seven games he had a 2.06 GAA and .922 save percentage -- not far off his career playoff numbers of 2.01 GAA and .919 save percentage.
"He's a good goaltender," coach Peter Laviolette said. "You look at his numbers in the [first-round] series and he's a good goalie. He's been a good goalie his whole career. You have to give the guy a tremendous amount of credit. He's one of the greats of the game. We've got our work cut out for us. It's going got be difficult generating offense."
"You think about what you want to do against him, you think about where you can beat him, but you don't think about who the goalie is or the aura around his name," Briere said.
The respect factor in the Philadelphia locker room remains high toward Brodeur. They know he's still capable of playing like the Brodeur of old, rather than an old Brodeur.
"He can steal games," Carle said. "He's done it through his whole career."
2012 PLAYOFF STATS:
GAA: 2.06 | SVP: 0.922
To prevent that, the Flyers' plan will remain the same as it is generally -- get bodies and pucks to the net.
"You've got to throw as many pucks at him as you can," Briere said. "You've got to find a way to get to him. If you're shooting 10 pucks at him during a game, your chances of winning are not good. … We have to find a way to get to him.
They also know they can't allow Brodeur to frustrate them if he does get on a roll.
"There's always going to be that [awe factor] a little bit," forward James van Riemsdyk said. "He's obviously going to be a Hall of Famer, he's an unbelievable goalie … [but] any time you get on the ice, no matter who you're playing against, you kind of throw all that out the window. It's obviously a cool thing, but at the same time, you’ve got to go out there and do your job. I'll be doing my job and he'll be doing his."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK