When the pressure mounts, Jamie Langenbrunner
usually is front and center.
Consider the fact his four career overtime goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs rank second among active players in the League. While pressure may be something an athlete feels when not prepared, the New Jersey Devils
forward never really has been in that predicament since preparation always has been a part of his repertoire.
In 1999, the Dallas Stars
won their first Stanley Cup as Langenbrunner figured in 7 of the Stars' 16 game-winning goals.
"I think I handle pressure well and I enjoy being in those situations and, fortunately, I've been in a lot of them," Langenbrunner told NHL.com. "In Dallas we were in a lot of playoff games and tight games, especially in that era of hockey when every game seemed like a one-goal game. I'm just comfortable and I think I want to be counted on to do something in those situations."
There's something to be said for a player who exhibits that fearless mentality in times of duress.
"I think Jamie's work ethic is great and he's a guy that doesn't lead with speeches but leads by example," Devils forward Brendan Shanahan
said. "From the short time I've been back in Jersey, I've noticed that Jamie is everything you could ask for with his professionalism and clutch play."
In 2003, the Devils captured their third Stanley Cup in nine years thanks to Langenbrunner, who led the League and matched a New Jersey record with 4 game-winning goals in a playoff season.
This season, Langenbrunner already has surpassed last season's 41-point total with 19 goals and 52 points. His current plus-20 rating is a career-best, which includes six-plus seasons in New Jersey. He also ranks sixth on the team with 63 hits and an 11.6 shooting percentage.
"Jamie is one of the best captains I've ever had," said second-year forward David Clarkson
. "For as long as Jamie's been in the League, he'll always try and be the first guy on the ice for practice, and that shows a lot to the younger guys. Off the ice, he'll say things to help you out. When we're down a goal and need one, he'll get it or find a way to get the next one."
Langenbrunner also is a straight shooter -- he'll never say or do something just for the sake of doing it. Everything has a purpose.
"He's not afraid to give his opinion, which is straight-forward, and there's never any sugar-coating," said Devils forward Dainius Zubrus
. "If you don't like it, you'll listen anyway because it's probably right."
The respect Langenbrunner has earned as a 12-season veteran really is no surprise. It's how he viewed the leaders during his initial years in the League.
When the Cloquet, Minn., native was a wide-eyed rookie with the Stars during the 1996-97 campaign, he followed the lead of veteran Joe Nieuwendyk
, who was in his 10th NHL season.
"I learned so much from Joe," Langenbrunner said. "I learned how to treat your teammates and the guys around the team, including the training staff, the public-relations guy and everyone else that completes the organization.
"He treated everyone with respect and dignity and made everyone feel a part of everything -- whether it was the black ace being called up during the playoffs or the team's superstar, Mike Modano
. I think you'll have a very hard time finding any of his past teammates saying anything negative about him."
Langenbrunner, whose next game-winning goal will be the 25th of his career, was named the eighth captain in New Jersey history Dec. 5, 2007. He said being named captain was an honor and something he takes very seriously.
"It's an honor to be playing in this League, actually, and to be a captain of one of only 30 NHL teams is something special," he said. "I think when you're in a sport where someone is competing against you night in and night out, there are times when you're going to have a little bit of a letdown; it's only natural. But it's how you pick yourself up and strive to be the guy who has it more nights than most. I realize that's not really possible every night, but it's something you strive for as a player."
Devils backup goalie Kevin Weekes
, who played against Langenbrunner in the Ontario Hockey League in 1993-94, isn't surprised how well his former opponent has adopted the leadership role.
"It's just an extension of who he is because he was already doing it in Peterborough in the OHL," Weekes said. "Especially after (Chris) Pronger and some of the other guys had left -- I see the same qualities now that I saw then. He's determined, plays hard every night and leads by example. He's not overly verbal, but speaks at the right times and he makes a lot of sense. But more than anything, he's just a courageous player; he's not undersized but average in stature (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), but is tough and will fight for his teammates."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.