Lemaire sees same Brodeur he always has

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire doesn't believe too much emphasis is being placed on Martin Brodeur in his pursuit of the NHL record for career shutouts.

"Not at all," Lemaire said. "I don't hear the coaching staff talking about it or the players."

There isn't a Devils player, coach of manager who will admit it's been a one-man show. And, really, it hasn't. Brodeur has just been, well, Brodeur -- consistently good.

"I think it's how he sees the game," Lemaire said. "I know he knows all of the good shooters, all the top players very well, even the whole League. He knows the players -- he knows the type of play they will try to make and he knows where they're trying to shoot and how they perform on the ice."

Brodeur holds goaltending records for most wins and most minutes played, and his next shutout will be his 104th, giving him yet another all-time standard. He also needs to play in just four more games to set the mark for most career regular-season games played by a goalie, with 1,030.

Lemaire, who's in his second term with the Devils after spending five seasons with the club from 1993-94 through 1997-98, coached Brodeur when he was a starry-eyed kid just breaking into the League. Now, many seasons later, he still sees the same glint in Brodeur's eyes and that passion to be the best.

"He's got great character," Lemaire said. "He doesn't get rattled. His focus is good. He doesn't feel pressure. That's a big thing. To me, you get players that are goaltenders and they come into games and they feel that pressure. When they feel that pressure, they can't perform at their best and Marty doesn't feel that at all. I can say that because I've seen him in the '90s and he's the same again. In the room before games, I've never seen him nervous. On the other hand, I've seen guys that because they were in big games, they were puking."

It's a matter of mind over matter, according to Lemaire.

"It's the mindset," he said. "He's used to that; he doesn't put more pressure on himself. He gets a bad goal, it doesn't rattle him -- he just keeps going."

Colin White, the longest-tenured defenseman in New Jersey's lineup these days, is amazed by Brodeur's consistency.

"Day in and day out he challenges himself to be better and he's definitely proved to the League and all hockey fans that he is the best," White said. "It's nice to be a part of these records he's breaking. He calls them little, but we don't. We think it's pretty amazing; it's nice to be a part of history like that and with such a class act in Marty. I know he's a superstar, but he doesn't act that way around us and that's the biggest thing. People want to see him succeed because of that."

Under Lemaire's watch, the 37-year-old Brodeur is 179-90-48 with 34 shutouts in five-plus seasons. Should he be considered the best to ever play the game?

"This is hard to say because you try to find the best player and some guys were great for their days and then another guy came in and was great," Lemaire said. "Is it Mario Lemieux? Is it (Wayne) Gretzky? Is it (Bobby) Orr? Is it (Jean) Beliveau? Is it Gordie Howe? They were all great. But who is the best? They would have to play against each other at the same time."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.